We love wood, the renewable building material, but until recently, one could only build up to four floors high in Ontario , Canada. The first building to break that height limit is the just-completed Templar Block in Hamilton, Ontario, designed by Lintack Architects Inc. and built by Core Urban Inc.
It would be notable had it just been the first, but there is a lot more going on here. I first learned about the building as a juror for the Ontario Wood Works! Awards, and visited it a few weeks ago as they were just finishing up. Now it's public: It has won the Multi-Unit Wood Design award:
Templar Flats is a unique urban infill project that combines the adaptive reuse of two existing structures with new construction in between them to create a uniquely attractive building. The upper floors are comprised of 25 spacious rental residences, while the street level offers four new restaurant spaces. This mixed-use building was the first 6-storey wood-frame project completed in Ontario under the new mid-rise code provisions.
Really, any dumb building might have been the first to six storeys, but this one is special. The new part is squished in between two historic buildings, tying them all together into one residential structure. The soil under it is not very good and had the building been made of concrete, the foundations would have been huge and there would have been problems underpinning the historic buildings. Wood makes the structure much lighter, the foundations much smaller. Being the first in the Province, engineers Strik Baldinelli Moniz developed an entirely new software program to meet Ontario seismic and wind loading criteria (and won the Engineer Wood Advocate Award for doing so).
To avoid any acoustical problems that come from using wood, there is a concrete topping on each floor. The building is clad in Arriscraft natural limestone, one of the few locally quarried and finished stones available in Ontario.
The plan shows how all the new stuff, the elevator and scissor stair, is in the new core, connecting the rental apartments.
The units seemed a bit tight when I toured them a few weeks ago,
But when you see it furnished, it is comfortable. All mechanical services are exposed, even the sprinkler pipes, which reduces the number of holes in the ceiling where noise might travel- this is harder in wood than in concrete, and requires a lot of care.
The kitchens all have European 24 inch wide appliances; these are far more expensive, but yield a bit more counterspace and they look a lot nicer.
Hamilton is going through a bit of a renaissance; two years ago, this property was slated to be a methadone clinic. Now it is all lovely rental apartments at rates that seem low by big city standards but that shocked Hamilton. But they are the kind of rents that you need to support this kind of renovation and new construction.
The new rules allowing wood construction change the game; I suspect we will see a lot more small infill projects like these.