Modern timber construction is nothing short of breathtaking. The wooden arches and unique curves delight even the most creative architects. The scale and perception of a wooden building make it blend in with the decor while still remaining noticeable. The inspiration and the possibility of achieving this type of construction are now trending upward, but who has the knowledge and expertise for these projects? The province of Quebec does, a world leader in mass timber construction.
For the past several years, there’s been increasing talk of a renaissance in timber construction and engineered wood. Quebec has risen to the occasion by specializing in the manufacturing of glulam beams (Glue Laminated Timber) and CLT (Cross-Laminated Timber). Wood structures as a whole have come a long way in the eyes of architects and engineers, according to the US Representative for Wood Construction at QWEB, Eli Gould.
“There has been a big shift in architects’ perceptions of mass timber and offsite wood prefab. A few years ago, our seminars were more focused on 'why wood' whereas now, it’s all about 'how.' Even though the architectural community is onboard for the embodied carbon and aesthetics, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to educate engineers and contractors.”
So why does the architecture community still hesitate to fully embrace mass timber construction? Gould understands it to be a matter of price but feels this will undoubtedly change in the coming years. “There is a perception of higher cost, and while this may be true at times, the reality is that when we optimize the design and account for the benefits, the wood option is often more competitive than it is given credit for.”
What's Special About Quebec’s Mass Timber?
Experience, knowledge, and technology are the reasons why mass timber from Quebec should be trusted and considered by architects for their projects. The province is rife with university faculties and companies who have developed and worked within the wood construction and mass timber field for decades. This know-how is sought after for several reasons.
Materials are perhaps more expensive at the beginning, but because the design and engineering are tailored to each project, there's a payback in terms of construction simplification and time saved. Construction becomes more like assembly, as parts are delivered to a site in as few deliveries as possible thanks to prefabrication. The site itself requires less clearing and smaller foundations because the material is lighter.
The prefabrication saves time, sites are cleaner, and fewer employees are needed for the project. This is made possible with the detailed preparation and construction knowledge of those in the industry. In addition, the environmental benefits should not be ignored: carbon sequestration, low greenhouse emissions during manufacturing, as well as recyclability. Wood construction is versatile in terms of soils and site choice as well, as Eli Gould points out, "In some situations, the lightweight structure can change foundation design so much that it makes new building types possible on poor soils or brownfields, which is really exciting from an urban renewal standpoint, too.”
Spotlight on Quebec Companies
Two Quebec companies stand out in the design of residential and commercial buildings in mass timber and exporting their know-how to the United States: Nordic Structures and Art Massif. The architectural technology developed by these Quebec companies has attracted the attention of several large-scale projects, specifically with organizations working in the field of education.
Art Massif is currently working on a project which will use glulam beams in Burr and Burton Academy’s new Founders Hall, a visionary new academic building. “For the last 15 years, the government of Quebec has introduced legislation favorable to wood construction so we can develop our products and expertise to become a North American leader in the field,” says Genevieve Constancis, CEO of Art Massif.
Nordic Structures is well-known for its collaboration on large-scale projects in the USA. Their CLT and glulam products can be seen on numerous buildings such as the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres training facility, the Harbor Center, and Michigan State University’s STEM teaching and learning centre. For Marie de Guire at Nordic Structures, the resource makes the difference:
“Nordic Structures’ glulam and CLT are unquestionably unique, both in their appearance and for their exceptional mechanical and environmental properties. Our Enviro-Lam technology optimizes the use of black spruce trees from the boreal forest. Sustainably harvested at maturity, they boast superior mechanical resistance due to the harsh northern climate they grow in.”
For more information about mass timber or Quebec’s manufacturers and products, visit the Quebec Wood Export Bureau.