The Future is Now, and it’s Wooden

Innovative wooden condominiums are taking the development industry by storm.  This is especially true in BC where advancing technologies have made the new building style increasingly popular.

Prompted by recent changes to the Ontario building code, the development of timber structures is becoming increasingly common in Toronto.  The policy change, which now allows for wooden structures of up to 6 storeys, has spearheaded a wave of innovation breeding excitement for the future of the development industry.  While Toronto is moving ahead, albeit tentatively, in order to find the real cutting-edge in wooden building and design, enthusiasts should reorient their gaze westward.

Internationally, building taller wooden structures is a relatively new concept with development proposals popping up in places like Sweden, Japan, Austria and New Zealand.  Yet it’s in BC where there seems to be a real willingness to take this innovative idea and proverbially run with it.

Historically speaking, BC’s building code was one of the earliest to adapt tall wood-building structures way back in 2012 – 3 years earlier than Ontario’s adoption of the same policy.  Since then, developments in BC have further pushed the envelope with the University of Northern British Columbia’s 6-storey Wood Innovation and Design Centre, an 18-storey student residence at UBC, and the latest – a proposed residential tower commissioning Shigeru Ban, a world-leader in wood design and Pritzker Prize winning architect, which rumours say will be one of the tallest wood buildings yet.  Not only are wood structures efficient, these designs are architecturally enlightened, adding a breath of fresh air to an industry that is currently synonymous with glass, concrete and steel.  This all in addition to a healthy amount of mid-rise development having sprung up in BC due to the feasibility provided by the wood-engineering style.

So, why choose wood?

Wood as a building material has been largely ignored for taller structures due to it’s historical frailness and overall impracticality in comparison with advancing steel and concrete engineering techniques.  But because of it’s own recent technological advancements, developers have been able to build wooden structures that are higher, faster, stronger, cleaner and cheaper.  This is due to several factors.  The laminated sheets of wood that are glued together for more density that form the panelling are fire resistant because of their hyper-slow burning tendency.  Wooden buildings are also more environmentally responsible, emitting less carbon during construction and actually storing carbon once completed.  From a feasibility perspective, wood structures are quicker and cheaper to construct and are just as durable as their concrete and steel counterparts providing them with a clear competitive advantage.

BC’s willingness to trail blaze in wood engineering and design will surely garner attention from key players in Toronto and the world-over who will observe any new beneficial industry developments.  Advancing the exciting new technology of wood building into the mainstream has the potential to make prominent waves, both internationally and closer to home.