The University of Toronto is set to build a 14-storey academic tower made of timber on its downtown Toronto campus – expected to be the tallest mass timber and concrete hybrid building in North America.
It follows a growing international trend towards tall timber structures, which have been lauded for their low carbon footprint, fire safety and faster construction time.
“There are a lot of compelling arguments for the use of wood,” says Gilbert Delgado, U of T’s chief of university planning, design and construction.
Recognizing the benefits of building with timber, the Ontario and federal governments are providing funding for buildings that use the material. U of T’s wood tower will be financed in part by those government subsidies, and through university funds and philanthropy, says Delgado.
The tower will be built above the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport and will house a number of academic units, including Rotman Executive Programs, the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education.
U of T is working on the project with Patkau Architects of Vancouver in partnership with MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJMA) of Toronto and Blackwell Structural Engineers – all of whom worked together on the Goldring Centre, which opened in 2014.
The Goldring Centre was designed and built with the structural integrity to be the base for the tower so there will be no need to dig deeper in order to build the taller structure, says Ted Watson, a partner at MJMA.
“As part of that project we developed a structural base, a foundation, to put the future tower on top of,” he says. “We don’t have to go down into the ground and all of the mess and construction disruption that goes along with that – that work has been done.”
The tower was originally slated to be built using steel, but after becoming aware of government incentives and of research by members of the Faculty of Forestry, including the former dean Mohini Sain, the university decided to go with timber.