"Steam Canoe" winter station made from a new technology, Press Laminated Timber

steam canoe on beach
© Steam Canoe/ OCADU

It gets cold on the beach during winter, so now Toronto is doing its version of the Winnipeg Warming Hut competition with its own Winter Stations Design Competition. One of last year’s winners was The Steam Canoe, a design from OCAD University in Toronto. The team, led by Environmental Design Assistant Professor Mark Tholen, won an Ontario Wood Works! award recently, where I was a juror.

diagram© OCADU Steam Canoe

"Composed of wood panels, OCADU’s design resembles that of an upside down canoe, creating an interior dome for the public to take shelter. Evacuated solar tubes placed at the rear of the structure are designed to turn snow to steam, creating a halo of fog emerging from within this ‘steam canoe’."

steam canoe closeup© OCADU

However these are not ordinary wood panels, but a new technology, a new way of laminating wood. It is built up with a metal fastening system called Grip Metal, which has tiny extruded hooks that dig into the wood, turning it into what they call Press Laminated Timber panels.

how it works image© Grip Metal

The process of sandwiching two layers of 3mm Oak and one layer of 19mm Spruce was made possible by the mechanical fastening of two Grip Metal™ layers, a type of metal Velcro™ developed by Nucap Technologies: a thin continuous steel sheet with grip hooks on both faces of the sheet is pressed into the veneer and core lumber in this press rolling method.

It apparently was developed for the automotive industry, but can in fact fasten any materials that are softer than the base metal used, which if course, wood is. It has some real advantages over the more traditional glue laminated panels, in that it is reversable:

The panels are assembled without the use of any glue and even though they have a stronger bond than traditional chemical adhesive methods, the components can be separated at the end of its lifetime into its pure material origins of wood and metal, making this a perfect innovation in material, process, application, product and sustainability.

It was also comparatively easy to curve the panels, simply by bending them as it went through the rollers, which eliminated the need for a structural frame. According to NUCAP, the Grip Metal manufacturer, “The laminate construction delivered a form of material that is stronger than normal wooden laminates, eliminated glues and adhesives, and is completely recyclable.” Bill Payne, GRIP Metal’s Executive Director of Research and Development, explains in greater detail:

The Steam Canoe showcases GRIP Metal’s core capabilities, providing a bonding layer to wood laminates and structures that translates the core capabilities of metal substrates to its laminate partners; bond strength, shear and torsion resistance without sacrificing the needs for lighter weight and flexibility of form that today’s designs require.

It is remarkable that this all evolved from product originally designed to hold brake pads in place, now cranked out in big sheets. The Steam Canoe project is probably the first of many interesting projects that are made of PLT. This is neat stuff.


Winter Stations 2016, OCADU Steam Canoe in collaboration with Nucap Industries / Grip Metal from RIKAKO TAKAHASHI on Vimeo.

Congratulations to the entire OCADU team, Curtis Ho, Jungyun Lee, Monifa Onca Charles, Reila Park, Hamid Shahi, Lambert St‐Cyr, Jaewon Kim, Jason Wong and Mark Tholen. Learn more about the Grip Metal product in this interview of Bill Payne conducted by a certain Donald Trump Jr.

Tags: Design Competitions | Toronto | Wood Construction

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