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Is Mass Timber the Next Big Thing in Cheaper, Greener Construction? More Provinces are Saying Yes

2 July 2024

As environmental awareness grows among the wider public, mass timber is growing in many markets.  This week’s story from Canada shows that there is indeed great potential, but check out the graph … it’s coming off a tiny base!

Is mass timber the next big thing in cheaper, greener construction? More provinces are saying yes.

Urban downtowns are sometimes called concrete jungles because the apartments and office buildings that make up skylines from New York to Vancouver are generally made of — what else? — concrete. But that could change with a push underway to build more tall buildings with another material: mass timber. Mass timber is an umbrella category of materials made by binding layers of wood together to create larger, stronger elements like panels and beams. Proponents say it’s faster and easier to build with than concrete and steel, and less carbon-intensive to boot. 

If concrete and steel are the Coke and Pepsi of highrise construction, mass timber has so far been more of a generic-brand cola. Mass timber made up just one per cent of all building construction materials in North America in 2022, according to an RBC report. But analysts expect the market to rapidly expand in the years ahead, and all across the country, existing mass-timber plants are being expanded and new ones are in the works, from B.C. and Alberta to Ontario and Nova Scotia.

“The demand is extremely high for mass timber now,” said Frank Gannon, director of stakeholder engagement with mass timber manufacturer Western Archrib. He spoke with CBC News inside a new, 155,000 sq. ft. facility the company is building north of Edmonton to keep up with its growing orders. 

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