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  • Writer's pictureTerrell Wong

Drilling through the cost barrier of high performance buildings - Part 2: Cross Laminated Timber

Excerpts taken from Terrell Wong at Green Building Festival in Toronto, October 2019

Prefabricated building components extend beyond wall panels, the next step would be to consider prefabricated component construction. What if we design buildings more like industrial products?

Prototype, test, manufacture, build and repeat.

Thus allowing the product to be improved each time. Tighter tolerances eliminate discrepancies between what is drawn and what is built.

Products created from cross laminated timber (CLT) are gaining traction in Canada with projects like Brock Commons, an 18 storey student residence building in Vancouver completed in 2017. CLT’s facilitate automation in the building industry. CNC machines can follow a drawing exactly, cutting openings for doors, windows, mechanical, plumbing and electrical. They also have the ability to route out door jambs directly into the CLT, cutting down on door installation and creating a minimalist look. Even stair openings are pre-cut into fabricated floor plates. There are companies who also offer both floor and wall finishes other than raw wood so there is no need for these things to be installed on site.

In preparation for the site, the CLT structure can be cut, labeled and packed for construction. Pre-weatherproofing is available so that exterior insulation can be applied while interiors are finished.

At the current time it is more expensive to build CLT construction, however this won't be the case for long since it is growing in popularity across the country. It is just a matter of time for companies to be improving business in canada and setting up fully automated systems. My experience is that CLT from Germany comes in at a much better pricing due to the fact that they have 35 years of experience and market penetration.

Companies like Element 5 and Nordic Structures are paving the way for a thriving CLT industry in Canada. Nordic Structures is currently in the construction phase of what will be the largest mass timber residential complex in the world. The project "Arbora" is being built in Montreal Quebec and includes a total of 435 residential units (133 condominiums, 30 townhouses and 272 rental units). While construction has been underway for Arbora, Element 5 has recently received a 5 million dollar investment towards their CLT manufacturing plant from the Ontario government. The plant in St.Thomas Ontario is one of the first fully automated CLT plants, and will be able to create 60+ new jobs.




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