The rise of the timber tower

by Steve Randall08 Feb 2019

A new era of timber-built skyscrapers is being heralded by a Toronto-based division of Google-parent Alphabet Inc. but it’s just one of many projects with a wood at its heart.

Sidewalk Labs LLC plans to use timber for all of its buildings on Toronto’s eastern waterfront development and Karim Khalifa, director of buildings innovation at Sidewalk Labs, says it has many benefits.

He told Bloomberg that timber buildings can “contribute to people’s wellness, are beautiful, easy to assemble, and strong enough support to build dozens of stories. And unlike concrete and steel, which are very carbon intensive to produce, using timber in buildings takes carbon out of the atmosphere."

Timber is also being used to construct a 10-storey tower in Vancouver for real estate firm Triovest.

“It’s the old brick and beam character, but without the creaks and drafts, and with the quality of a new building,” Dejonckheere, vice president at Triovest told Bloomberg.  “We want to show we’re early adopters and make new ideas work.”

While the costs of materials are not dissimilar to that of other options, there is a genuine saving in the time taken to construct timber buildings, therefore reducing labour and other costs, and allowing buildings to come to market faster.

Canada’s National Research Council and some US officials are looking at changes to building codes to allow taller timber towers. It has also found in tests that fire resistance can be up to 3 hours even for un-laminated wood.

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