Another Timber Tower Sprouting in Toronto

©. MJMA and Patkau Architects via U of T

It may well be the tallest hybrid wood and concrete tower in North America

When Patkau Architects of Vancouver, in partnership with MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJMA) of Toronto, designed the jazzy Goldring Centre on the University of Toronto campus, they had Blackwell Structural Engineers design the foundations and structure to anticipate putting a tower on top. Now it has been announced that they are doing it in wood. It should sprout pretty quickly; Ted Watson of MJMA says “We don't have to go down into the ground and all of the mess and construction disruption that goes along with that – that work has been done.”

The Goldring Centre was designed to support a steel structure, but wood structures are light as well, so they were able to make the switch to a hybrid Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) and concrete structure. There were also a number of incentives besides tall wood's trendiness right now, including government subsidies that promote the use of timber (it's big in Ontario). Robert Wright, dean of the Faculty of Forestry and associate professor at my alma mater, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, notes the local benefits in the press release:

For years we've been seen as a country sending our raw materials out to everybody, and they've been sending manufactured goods back to us, so it's really important that we can build up industries and manufacturing within our own country to use these materials.

Unlike steel or concrete, wood stores CO2 for the life of the building and can be easily reused or recycled after that. All the wood in Ontario and Quebec is supposed to be sustainably managed, harvested and replanted and it is all second or third growth after the giant pines were cleared out in the 19th century; back then fully half of the men in Ontario worked in logging during winter when they couldn't farm. It doesn't take so many people now, but it just makes so much sense to move from concrete and steel to local wood wherever possible, to rebuild the industry that built this province, to stop making CO2 and start storing it.

Ontario is, in fact, going all out to get people using more wood, and has set up a Mass Timber Institute (MTI) run by Anne Koven, who says it will "animate and excite people and promote building with wood."

The Mass Timber Institute will be Canada's first collaborative network to focus on research, development and specialized education in mass timber design and construction. Once fully established, virtual classes will be taught along with opportunities for hands on training, including living laboratory experiences at several of the demonstration projects
Goldring tower

© MJMA and Patkau Architects via U of T

The building is one of four demonstration projects being built in Ontario (another is the Arbour tower at George Brown College that we covered previously). It is expected that the 14 storey tower will be "the tallest mass timber and concrete hybrid building in North America" for about a nanosecond when it is completed. Robert Wright explains:

We need to build these buildings as case studies to actually identify and deal with issues and people's perceptions of wood building, in terms of design, construction and the training of people who will actually build them.

Construction could start as early as next year, if they can deal with that pesky problem that wood is only approved to six floors in Ontario. But that's why we have demonstration projects; I am looking forward to this one and we will watch its progress closely; it has terrific architects and engineers, and it's a ten-minute bike ride from where I live, and will see if I can document it as it goes.