Getting Good Wood on It = A Home Run for the Forest Industry

Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre at Laurentian University

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This wooden structure, winner of the Ontario Wood WORKS! 2018 Institutional Wood Design Award, celebrates the importance of the Indigenous community at the University. Photo Credit: Bob Gunda, Toronto.

The Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre at Laurentian University in Sudbury stands in stark contrast to other campus buildings. With its design inspired by the wigwam, a traditional Indigenous building, the centre is made of wood.  The result is not only visually appealing, it also highlights the material's strength and flexibility.

The building is one of 653 projects across the province that Ontario Wood WORKS! (OWW) has influenced over the past some 17 years since opening its doors in June 2000. The projects, in turn, have resulted in incremental wood sales of $354 million and supported 1,772 jobs.

According to the Ontario Forest Industries Association, the sector employs 229,000 individuals either directly or indirectly across the province. With that in mind, FedNor invested $907,785 in 2015 to assist OWW with a three-year plan to provide a range of technical support and education services designed to promote the increased use of wood in the construction market.

Following the amendment of the Ontario Building Code in 2015 that paved the way for the construction of mid-rise wood-frame buildings of up to six storeys, OWW produced guides and tools, such as the Ontario Mid-rise Reference Guide, to ensure design and building professionals had the knowledge and skills they needed to work with wood. The executive director of Ontario Wood WORKS!says the wood industry would have lost market share had the building code not been amended.

"In Southern Ontario, urban densification is a growing problem due to limited available land and we needed to capture more market share in the mid-rise market," explained Marianne Bérubé, OWW Executive Director. "Northern Ontario's wood producers have benefited from the change to the building code in Ontario where 42 percent of all of Canada's construction is concentrated."

Bérubé says it is a slow process. "It's not just a matter of promoting and encouraging the increased use of wood. It requires substantial training so that each project is done the right way."

Wood Takes Root

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The McEwen School of Architecture is another example of a project that incorporated wood into its design.

To that end, OWW is making a difference. Since 2015, OWW has met or exceeded all of its targets with 145 midrise projects completed, under construction, or in the planning stages. It also held 283 training sessions reaching more than 126,000 participants, ultimately designed to reduce the barriers for incorporating wood into construction projects.

The next cycle of building code changes are to take effect in 2020, and if approved, will allow for mass timber construction of up to 12 storeys.

"The greatest challenge is that things are happening so fast," stated Bérubé. "There's a lot of training and support required in terms of working with the carpenters' union, engineers and architects, building officials and inspectors, and developing an education roadmap with colleges and university ensuring that trades, engineers and architects have the information they need to fully take advantage of the changes once they're implemented."

Through its work, OWW is helping industry, community leaders and small and medium-sized enterprises to develop market opportunities for wood in construction, strengthening the economy of Northern Ontario and creating jobs

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