The development of this primer commenced shortly after the 2018 launch of the Mass Timber Institute (MTI) centered at the University of Toronto. Funding for this publication was generously provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Although numerous jurisdictions have established design guides for tall mass timber buildings, architects and engineers often do not have access to the specialized building science knowledge required to deliver well performing mass timber buildings. MTI worked collaboratively with industry, design professionals, academia, researchers and code experts to develop the scope and content of this mass timber building science primer. Although provincially funded, the broader Canadian context underlying this publication was viewed as the most appropriate means of advancing Ontario’s nascent mass timber building industry. This publication also extends beyond Canada and is based on universally applicable principles of building science and how these principles may be used anywhere in all aspects of mass timber building technology. Specifically, these guidelines were developed to guide stakeholders in selecting and implementing appropriate building science practices and protocols to ensure the acceptable life cycle performance of mass timber buildings. It is essential that each representative stakeholder, developer/owner, architect/engineer, supplier, constructor, wood erector, building official, insurer, and facility manager, understand these principles and how to apply them during the design, procurement, construction and in-service phases before embarking on a mass timber building project.
When mass timber building technology has enjoyed the same degree of penetration as steel and concrete, this primer will be long outdated and its constituent concepts will have been baked into the training and education of design professionals and all those who fabricate, construct, maintain and manage mass timber buildings.
One of the most important reasons this publication was developed was to identify gaps in building science knowledge related to mass timber buildings and hopefully to address these gaps with appropriate research, development and demonstration programs. The mass timber building industry in Canada is still a collection of seedlings that continue to grow and as such they deserve the stewardship of the best available building science knowledge to sustain them until such time as they become a forest that can fend for itself.
Tall wood buildings have been at the foreground of innovative building practice in urban contexts for a number of years. From London to Stockholm, from Vancouver to Melbourne timber buildings of up to 20 storeys have been built, are under construction or being considered. This dynamic trend was enabled by developments in the material itself, prefabrication and more flexibility in fire regulations. The low CO2 footprint of wood - often regionally sourced - is another strong argument in its favour. This publication explains the typical construction types such as panel systems, frame and hybrid systems. An international selection of 13 case studies is documented in detail with many specially prepared construction drawings, demonstrating the range of the technology.