Mass Timber Modular System Supports Sustainable Construction

Keean Nembhard

The Government of Canada supports buildings and projects that use sustainable and renewable resources as Canada transitions to a net-zero economy. The effective and innovative use of Canadian forest products has the potential to transform the construction industry. As part of this transformation, mass timber and modular construction is now a leading material and method in energy-efficient and cost-effective builds. Lighter than traditional building materials but equal in strength, mass timber and new, innovative modular construction methods are important in advancing toward a greener future.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, is pleased to announce over $110,000 to the Mass Timber Modular System Project led by EllisDon. The contribution is funded through the Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) Program. This program encourages the greater use of wood in construction projects and supports Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. GCWood also contributed to EllisDon’s Hybrid Timber Floor System, set to be completed this year.

“Mass timber presents Canada with a significant opportunity to lower the emissions profile of Canada’s buildings sector,” said Wilkinson. “By supporting this work, the Government of Canada is helping build a greener future across the country, while accelerating economic opportunities in low-carbon building products.”

EllisDon has designed and constructed a prototype of a mass timber–based volumetric modular system that can be used to deliver various residential occupancies, including affordable housing, student housing, hotels, and market housing sectors. In modular construction, components are built offsite into large volumes and then assembled onsite; this approach reduces onsite activity for the contractor, which minimizes disruption and noise to neighbouring areas. The project examines the benefits of using mass timber in a modular application and quantifies the efficiencies gained in the production and the overall embodied carbon benefits over traditional materials. Mass timber has environmental and production benefits, and its incorporation in modular construction methods has also inspired new and creative architectural styles.

“We are moving toward a more sustainable future, and it’s important that we find innovative solutions to decarbonize the building sector, improve housing supply and increase the productivity of offsite construction methods,” said Vincent Davenport, Director of Building and Material Sciences at EllisDon. “We are thrilled to work with the Government of Canada; its support with this funding will contribute to advancing the modular construction industry.”

EllisDon is also considering what this project could mean for affordable housing. The company has undertaken significant market analysis for affordable housing to understand the outlook for potential modular projects in the coming years and to align this project’s outcomes with Canada’s National Housing Strategy.

A full-scale mock-up of the project has recently been completed at EllisDon’s fabrication facility in Stoney Creek, Ontario. The overall project will be finalized later this year.

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