Wood, Carbon Sequestered Concrete, Future Green Buildings-Globe and Mail

2021-11-13 07:02:00 By : Ms. Annie Jia

The six-story timber-frame One Young Street office building in downtown Kitchener, Ontario. It is the first large wooden structure in the Waterloo area. Timmerman Lumber Company

As anyone traveling in major Canadian cities can attest, although the pandemic continues, the country continues to experience a construction boom. Construction cranes dot most urban landscapes, marking the erection of apartments and apartment buildings, and even strange office buildings.

To ordinary observers, the skeletons of these buildings look almost the same as 10 or 20 years ago: steel beam frames armored with cast concrete.

Sadly, modern buildings are the main source of pollution. According to the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC), they account for nearly 30% of all greenhouse gases during construction and throughout the life cycle, while construction and demolition account for 35% of landfill waste. So it is fair to ask: Is the commercial construction industry becoming cleaner and more environmentally friendly?

A quick answer is yes, but it is slow.

The good news is that we have performed well internationally: since 2004, the Global Green Building Certification Program Energy and Environmental Design Leadership-known as LEED-has certified more than 4,350 buildings in Canada and registered more than 8,500 compliance LEED standard buildings have enabled Canada to obtain the number of LEED projects ranking second in the world.

CaGBC President and CEO Thomas Mueller said that this is just a good start.

"In addition to buildings built according to green standards, you can also see some innovations here and there, but they are certainly not universal," he said.

The Vancouver green building expert ranks apartment developers as the slowest to adopt new environmental and sustainable practices. Because they use a construction and sales model, they are much less likely to adopt green technology, which may take decades to recover the cost.

One sustainable building practice that seems to be adopted more widely is the use of large amounts of wood instead of structural steel beams. In Canada, there are already 14-story wooden buildings, and wood is slowly being accepted, especially in British Columbia and Ontario.

At first glance, the huge timber looks much more expensive than the steel beams they intend to replace. But the use of wooden beams tends to reduce costs in other areas, such as not requiring dry walls, and allowing workers to complete the construction faster than using traditional construction methods.

"At the moment, the industry is not mature enough to start seeing enough examples of how much wood can be saved," said Charlie Ferguson, director of construction and operations at Timmerman Timber, a large timber manufacturer in New Lowell, Ontario.

In introducing the benefits of large amounts of wood to clients, Mr. Ferguson brags about the fact that the building is completed and ready for tenant use 25% faster than buildings made mainly of steel and concrete, because most of the structure is present Externally prefabricated, the labor cost is less and the cost is generally less.

Friday Harbor Lake Club in Innisfil, Ontario. Timmerman Lumber Company

Although it was not built by Timmerman, he pointed out that the 18-story Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver is achievable. This was the tallest large-scale wooden structure in the world at the time. Most of its wooden skeleton was prefabricated, and it took only three months to complete-two months sooner than planned. It was opened to students of the University of British Columbia in mid-2017.

Timmerman's most recent flagship project is the six-story One Young Street office building in downtown Kitchener, Ontario. The first large wooden structure of its kind in the Waterloo area, it has a loft-like brick and beam feel, exposed wood, high ceilings and exposed fixtures and accessories.

Timmerman's marketing materials emphasize the fire-resistant properties of huge wooden beams (they actually exceed fire protection guidelines) and the uniqueness of wood as a building material for carbon sequestration.

“When you start to associate it with the amount of carbon emitted from the production of steel, concrete and wood, there are plenty of opportunities in the industry,” said Mr. Ferguson, who joined the company six years ago when it focused on commercial construction. .

Timmerman estimates that using large amounts of wood on One Young Street is equivalent to removing 373 cars from the road.

In its more than two years of history, Timmerman's portfolio has approximately 150 large timber projects. Until recently, this was mainly development projects such as entertainment centers and swimming pools. In recent years, the company has completed more than 30 projects ranging from multi-storey buildings to bridges.

Although the apartment landscape is still dominated by old-style concrete, steel and glass cubes, there are new signs that Canadians are looking for something different from developers.

Ottawa developer Windmill Development Group has successfully adopted a zero-carbon building approach with a focus on energy efficiency, design and walkable communities.

Most of Windmill's buildings now use geothermal heating, which has provided significant energy savings for decades, less maintenance and replacement costs, and no ugly and noisy machinery on the roof of its property.

The company recently demonstrated these sustainable development features in the completed building at 41 Dover Court Road, Queen Street West, Toronto.

The 10-story residential and retail development nicknamed The Plant quickly sold out of its 74 apartment units. It has less glass than a typical apartment (for energy saving), a very large balcony and minimal carpet usage. This minimalist approach included using polished concrete in public areas and deciding not to use drywall to complete the unit, but instead chose to finish the concrete walls and ceiling with paint.

Alex Speigel, a partner at Windmill's Toronto office, says that even the most environmentally conscious developers find it difficult to build without a lot of concrete pouring. "Concrete is the biggest challenge."

His company is already an environmental leader in sustainable development, and its goal is to take the next step in green buildings.

"We are considering building several projects with large amounts of wood," he explained.

Unable to eliminate concrete from larger buildings, Windmill is exploring the use of low-carbon concrete, which either contains recycled materials or uses carbon embedding technology, such as CarbonCure technology from Halifax, which allows concrete producers Inject waste carbon into concrete.

"This is a very interesting technology," Mr. Spiegel said. "We did not use it in The Plant, but we are considering using it for other projects."

Follow us on Twitter: @globebusinessOpens in a new window

Build your personal news feed