How big is the mass timber market in Canada? Not nearly big enough, according to those in the know. The demand for more sustainable construction materials and methods, as well as more sophisticated design and production systems, is stimulating the construction market in Canada and mass timber is expected to significantly shape the future of low carbon construction and develop the bio-economy.

As such, Canada’s forest sector is responding to this opportunity with innovative designs and projects. One of these projects will provide an educational opportunity at the University of Toronto (U of T).

The Government of Canada recently announced a $3.9-million contribution to the U of T for the construction of a 14-storey mass timber academic and research tower on its St. George campus. The contribution comes through the Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) program.

The new building, the Academic Wood Tower, with its innovative design and creative wood structure, will provide a new and creative workspace for several faculties and act as a living laboratory to further the university’s innovation agenda. The structure is being constructed almost entirely from engineered Canadian timber.

Once complete, the tower is expected to be the tallest academic timber structure in Canada and one of the tallest mass timber and steel hybrid buildings in North America. U of T, which was recently named the world’s most sustainable university by QS World Rankings, is committed to furthering its role as a global model with projects like these.

“The Government of Canada’s Green Construction through Wood program is supporting more sustainable Canadian materials for the construction industry. The University of Toronto’s Academic Wood Tower project is one of many examples of innovative technologies being used to create resilient and low-carbon buildings, while preventing carbon emissions. I congratulate all those involved in this important project,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources.

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Instead of a traditional groundbreaking, Pomerleau and the University ceremonially marked the start of construction with a mass timber “building raising” where guests had the opportunity to hand sign one of the mass timbers before it is used in the construction of the building. (Credit: Pomerleau)

Mass timber products require less energy to produce and store carbon dioxide. By choosing mass timber, construction projects are reducing pollution and energy waste while contributing to a growing area of climate action. Mass timber products sustainably contribute to the future of low-carbon construction and the development Canada’s bio-economy in a manner that is consistent with the forest carbon cycle.

“As a global university, we have a responsibility — and an opportunity — to show the world how to positively shape urban environments,” said U of T President Meric Gertler. “With the Academic Wood Tower, made possible thanks in large part to our generous supporters, U of T is leveraging Canada’s leadership in forestry and wood technologies to demonstrate a better way to build, all while providing our faculty and students with state-of-the-art spaces for their research, teaching, learning and community engagement. Ambitious projects like these are why U of T is increasingly regarded as a global leader in sustainability.”

Located near the intersection of Devonshire Place and Bloor Street on U of T’s St. George campus, the tower will provide high-quality spaces for the Rotman School of Management, the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy in the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education.

ImageJulie Dabrusin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources at the kick off for this historic low carbon construction project. (Credit: X/Julie Dabrusin)

The Academic Wood Tower at U of T is a historic development that symbolizes where we are headed: a cleaner future where Canadian workers sustainably use Canadian materials to build more affordable and sustainable communities. The Government of Canada is pleased to help get this tower built, right here in Toronto,” said Julie Dabrusin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources.

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Featured image credit: University of Toronto/Patkau Architects + MJMA

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