Waterfront goes back to the woods

New tall wood building to host child-care facilities for Waterfront area

The next plank in George Brown College’s (GBC) plan for Waterfront campus is to build a 12-storey tall wood building. 

The new building, which is called “The Arbour”, is planned to be carbon neutral and produce its own energy. The building is also planned to host research facilities for climate-friendly construction techniques.

For GBC president Anne Sado, setting out to build greener structures is part of reversing the greenhouse gas emissions buildings have traditionally produced. 

“We don’t want to continue to add to that, we want to start changing that cycle and saying ‘okay if we start thinking about different ways to build new structures, we will be able to reduce that future load,’ ” said Sado. 

According to a 2016 report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, buildings accounted for the third most emissions beyond the transportation and industrial sectors. The emissions from the building sector have increased 28 per cent between 1990 and 2014.

The Arbour will have a tall wood building research institute, which according a release from the college, will allow students and researchers to learn about designing, building, and operating “climate-friendly” buildings.

According to Forestry Innovation Investment, 13 tall-wood buildings, seven storeys and taller have been built in the last five years with 19 more under construction.

While the buildings are taking root all over the world, awareness of tall wood is still sprouting. 

“The biggest challenge for wood construction is education, teaching designers and trades proper techniques and processes, as well as educating the public on the safety of wood construction” wrote Jennifer Zatser, a spokesperson for Michael Green Architecture in an email.

The architecture firm has designed several tall wood buildings including the seven-storey T3 building in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When T3 was completed in 2016, it was the tallest wood building in North America. 

That title now belongs to University of British Columbia’s 18-storey Brock Commons student residence which opened this year. 

For Adrienne Galway, who is a special adviser to Sado, the Brock Commons illustrates another benefit of using tall wood: time-savings. 

“They had 16 weeks scheduled for the build and it went up in 10 weeks,” she said. “Usually, it’s not six weeks ahead of schedule in a building project.”

George Brown is holding an international design competition for The Arbour, starting this fall. 

“It would be wonderful if it was someone Canadian or North American but we don’t want to pre-conclude that,” Sado said. “We want the best design in consideration of the expertise that we need to create this new building.”

The Arbour will also feature the school of computer technology and the college’s twelfth child-care facility. Hosting the child-care facility was part of the commitment the college made when it bought the land from the City of Toronto that The Arbour will be built on.

The new building is scheduled to be completed in 2024.


Waterfront goes back to the woods