An array of stacked wooden beams

Celebrating World Wood Day!

Last Monday was World Wood Day. Yes, you read that right, March 21 was World Wood Day. Once considered the first day of spring, the 21st of March now serves to remind us of the key role wood plays in our lives. It’s renewable, sustainable and eco-friendly if managed properly. It’s also incredibly versatile and has been providing humans with amazing options for shelter for millennia.

According to its official website, World Wood Day was established in 2013 “to highlight wood as an eco-friendly and renewable biomaterial” and to celebrate “the importance and true value of wood and its responsible use”. Ontario’s new home building industry is one group that has not only listened to that call, but taken action.

World Wood Day was established in 2013 “to highlight wood as an eco-friendly and renewable biomaterial” and to celebrate “the importance and true value of wood and its responsible use”.

A worker bringing fresh timber to a job site

Wood’s expanding role in new home construction

Anyone who has passed by a new house while it was being framed is aware of the important role that wood plays in home construction. Here in Ontario, wood’s connection to residential construction has almost exclusively been associated with low-rise construction, but that is starting to change. In 2015, the Ontario Building Code was updated to allow wood frame buildings to be built up as high as six storeys (the previous limit was four storeys).

This “mid-rise” wood construction may be new to Ontario, but it is a proven method of construction in other parts of the world. For example, in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Scandinavia, buildings made from wood higher than four storeys are common. In Canada, British Columbia was the first province to allow mid-rise wood construction in 2009. Quebec followed in 2013.

Wood is good

Why is Ontario starting to embrace higher buildings made with wood? Consider some of the advantages that building with wood offers:

  • Wood often costs less than other building materials. This means more affordable housing options for Ontario’s new home buyers.
  • Wood has a smaller environmental footprint. It is a lower carbon alternative to steel, brick or concrete.
  • Wood is a renewable resource. It’s the only major building material that grows naturally and can be sustainably managed.
  • Wood supports more than 150,000 jobs connected to the forestry sector in over 260 communities across Ontario (Supporting Growth in Ontario’s Forest Industry, Government of Ontario Newsroom).

There are a number of registered new home builders in Ontario who have become early adopters of the new building code provision. In fact, there are currently 13 projects planned or under construction in Ontario already. These projects include five and six-storey wood buildings and total over 1,200 new units.

The future of building in Ontario

Some members of Ontario’s building industry are keen to eventually build even higher than six storeys. It will be interesting to see if that enthusiasm for higher wood frame construction changes Ontario’s new home industry in the years to come. In the meantime, albeit somewhat belatedly, Happy World Wood Day!