Architectural Closeup: Wooden Buildings

February 13th, 2015

Not sure if you remember, but a few years ago we wrote about the rise of wooden buildings. The building you’re sitting in right now or the one you live in is probably not a wooden building, because they aren’t that popular in Canada. Yet.

For several years, after steel framing was introduced and skyscrapers made out of more lasting materials came into existence, architects steered clear from wooden buildings. There were concerns about wood rotting and fires, which in turn meant more strict guidelines to adhere to, limiting wood-framed buildings to a maximum of four storeys.

That’s all about to change. Just a few months ago, Ontario builders were given the green light to construct six-storey buildings out of wood in 2015. This can all be attributed to politicians from the north who are hoping that it increases the demand in northern lumber. And also to advocates who argue that we live in a generation where “engineered” wood products can totally eliminate the need for steel or concrete skeletons in highrise buildings. The thing is – just because a building may be built out of wood, doesn’t mean it necessarily has to look like a log cabin from the 1500s. In fact, it usually refers to wood framing (learn more about framing in this blog post).


Another benefit to wood structures is the cost-effectiveness behind it all. In places like Toronto and Ottawa, six storey wooden buildings are way more cost effective than concrete and steel. Even though there are additional safety requirements that come with wooden buildings, and thus most costs, industry analysts estimate a 10 to 15% price advantage for wood over traditional materials.

Ontario is a bit behind, seeing as six-storey wood structures have been allowed in British Columbia since 2009 and there hasn’t been any stories about them catching on fire, or any other dangers.  Calgary and Quebec also allow six storey wood buildings.


Those advocating for more wooden buildings aren’t done yet — the president of the Canadian Wood Council, Michael Giroux and his team are seeking builder interest in projects above 10 storeys!

Can’t wait to see this old-turned-new architectural trend make splashes again!