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Efforts on Adoption of Quicker and Cost-effective Building Materials

This week, the province unveiled plans to expand the use of advanced wood construction techniques, aimed at accelerating the construction of new homes while simultaneously driving down costs. The initiative also seeks to support employment in forestry, technology, engineering design, and manufacturing sectors. Ontario’s Building Code will undergo amendments to allow for the construction of buildings up to 18 storeys using encapsulated mass timber, an engineered wood product that meets stringent structural, fire protection, and seismic standards akin to those of traditional concrete and steel used in tall building construction. Encapsulated mass timber components, when treated with fire-resistant materials like drywall, are prefabricated and ready for assembly.

This approach reduces the impact of construction on surrounding neighborhoods while also cutting down construction time and on-site work. Paul Manzon, the manager of building services with the City of Thunder Bay, noted that changes to building codes occur periodically as provinces consider ways to support development and public safety. “We (the city) support that,” Manzon remarked. “In Thunder Bay, tall buildings are not common, but developers now have the option to use timber framing.” Harold Lindstrom, manager of the Construction Association of Thunder Bay, highlighted the capability of local contractors to erect structures up to 18 storeys high, despite the limited presence of high-rise apartments or condominiums in the area.

Moreover, there are potential benefits to consider. “There’s a strong possibility of utilizing local materials,” Lindstrom pointed out. “Given our proximity to the forest, accessing lumber is advantageous.” He described how many earlier apartment buildings in Thunder Bay were constructed using masonry and precast concrete floors and walls. “They would place the concrete floor atop the walls for each subsequent floor, followed by additional masonry for walls,” he explained. “The introduction of mass timber will open up new opportunities in the market. The industry nationwide recognizes that mass timber offers a more cost-effective and quicker construction method, which is beneficial for the entire sector.”

Lindstrom emphasized that the provincial building code amendment aligns Ontario’s standards with the national building code, allowing each province to tailor regulations to its specific requirements. “This amendment isn’t a hasty government response to our housing challenges,” Lindstrom clarified. “It’s been under consideration for many years as part of efforts to achieve more affordable housing. This is a nationwide phenomenon, not unique to Thunder Bay.” He also noted the role played by the Terralux General Contracting and Development condominium project on Golf Links Road in contributing to meeting the city’s 2023 housing development targets.