Wood Is Good, Part 2
We’ve talked about the resurgence of wood as the ideal material for framing mid-rise buildings in Ontario (See ‘Wood is good, Part 1’). But what makes wood so good?
“Wood is obviously was one of the original, very traditional construction materials,” says the founder of H+ME Technology, Tad Putyra. He notes that wood began its descent in the 20th Century as buildings on premium land were being constructed with relatively safer (non-flammable) materials, notably concrete and steel.
But that’s begun to change.
“In the last decade wood has gone through an absolute renaissance,” says Putyra. “There are two main reasons. The first? We have rediscovered the value of wood as probably the most environmentally beneficial way of producing building materials: it’s fully replaceable.”
An abundant natural resource, wood is suitable for many types of building construction – residential or non-residential, light frame or heavy timber frame, low rise or mid-rise. Why? A typically cost-effective building material, wood enables developers to build more quickly – and at less expense. Wood structures are also strong, durable and resilient, and can be designed to resist lateral loads, such as wind and seismic forces. And it’s versatile: builders can use wood to enhance a home’s features – making roofs, ceilings, walls and bridges more dynamic.
But it’s the environmental impact – or lack of it – that makes the best case for using wood, says Putyra. “According to the Canadian Wood Council’s calculations, a typical North American wood-frame home stores about 30 tons of carbon – the equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by running the family car for over five years.”
That means after oceans, wood construction the biggest global contributor to the containment of carbon. “When you think about the magnitude of these numbers, it’s unbelievable.
The other reason for wood’s comeback is the advancement in wood technology, says Putyra.
“Wood wasn’t always the perfect material. It would come from the supplier with any number of flaws,” he says. “After all, it is a natural material and, at times, would behave in unpredictable ways.” This, he says, is where new engineering methods came to the rescue.
“Everything is engineered today – everything from wood panels to structural elements. There’s very, very little wood in its original state being used in a construction today.”
There are also wider economic benefits of wood use in home construction. According to Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian forest industry contributed $19.8 billion (or 1.25%) to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), and provided 216,500 people with jobs in 2013; 350,000 people were indirectly employed by the sector, in areas such as construction, engineering and transportation.
People are the key to using wood most effectively for us at H+ME Technology.
“Having a very well trained and educated staff, we can limit the waste, and we can get it to perform in the best way – building reliable, durable homes with precision,” says Putyra. “In other words, we are capable of implementing this newly engineered wood product into our houses without suffering economical consequences. It’s win-win.”