The condo industry is embracing the growth of wood frame construction. What does that mean for the prospective home buyer?
From the outside, they look just like any other six-storey midrise structures. It’s what you don’t see underneath that could be a potential game-changer for Canada’s condominium construction industry.
Recent changes to provincial building codes have paved the way for wood frame construction of midrise buildings up to six storeys in Ontario and B.C., where the current limit in most other jurisdictions is four storeys. Changes to the National Building Code of Canada are expected to follow suit.
As the condo industry embraces the growth of wood frame construction, we’ll start to see more townhomes and midrise condos made from engineered wood materials. What does that mean for the prospective home buyer?
The obvious advantage is cost. Analysts predict a reduction in construction costs of multi-residential and office buildings in the order of 10 to 15 per cent. That’s after factoring in the added safety provisions mandated by the legislation.
Multi-storey wood frame construction is not a new idea. Take a look at the oldest parts of Canada’s downtown cities and you’ll find many fine examples of legacy construction: mammoth office buildings and warehouses framed with giant timbers and clad in brick.
These buildings have stood the test of time, and many have been transformed into the coveted and trendy loft and office spaces that fetch considerable sums today. For example, Winnipeg’s Exchange District is known for its century-old timber buildings that rise up to eight storeys.
But the wood construction of today uses an entirely different class of high-tech materials, such as glulam, a cross-laminated timber product that makes it easier to prefabricate building components. Solid panels up to 20 metres long can be produced in factories with cutouts ready for window and door openings. These components are then shipped on site to form the walls and floors of the building.
A new design trend is also underway that takes wood frame construction a step further. CABIN, a new, six-storey hybrid wood and concrete condo in Toronto, incorporates wood elements and accents on the exterior and interiors of the building in a modern interpretation of the Muskoka Lakes style.
According to CABIN developer Adam Ochshorn, “There’s a movement up north and throughout Canada, on the west coast and on Georgian Bay, of not doing the typical type of A-frame construction from the ’70s and building something more contemporary. That’s what we’re trying to bring to the city.”