Prairie Wood Solutions Fair showcases wood’s potential

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by Kathleen Renne

The Prairie Wood Solutions Fair – an educational and inspirational event all about wood products and wood construction – is coming to Calgary’s Hyatt Regency hotel on March 23.
Dalston Lane is the world's largest CLT building which is under construction in London, England. Its 10 storeys and 121 units are entirely made of CLT.
Dalston Lane is the world's largest CLT building which is under construction in London, England. Its 10 storeys and 121 units are entirely made of CLT. - Photo: Submitted Photo

Rory Koska, the program director for Wood WORKS! Alberta, a program of the Canadian Wood Council and the organization hosting the Fair, says the event is relevant for members across the design community from architects and engineers to builders and developers "to increase their education on building large structures with wood."

"Designers are starting to look at using this material again. For one thing, it's a material we create here in Canada and don't have to bring in from overseas," Koska says, listing the benefits of building with wood including those related to the environment, cost, aesthetics and strength-to-weight ratio.

Despite its benefits, however, Koska says "it still requires convincing" to encourage builders and designers to use wood, noting that concerns around fire safety are among the primary issues. "Because it's wood, people believe it's going to burn down. But all new buildings must meet the same safety criteria when it comes to fires and earthquakes, regardless of what the material is," Koska adds.

Unlike in years past when fire and safety took centre stage, Koska says the focus of this year's Prairie Wood Solutions Fair is mass timber or mass wood, a product he describes as large wood panels that can be eight-to-10 feet in width and up to 40 feet in length.

"It's a new technology in North America. It started in Europe, but through the Canadian Wood Council, we've been working on having this technology adopted in North America," explains Koska.

Koska says the use of mass timber "greatly reduces" construction times and site noise. Moreover, Koska says, because building times in Alberta are "quite tight" on account of cold weather, "builders can save money using mass-wood products, because they don't have to heat the wood like they do the concrete."

To help educate Fair attendees about the use of mass timber in construction, the Prairie Wood Solutions Fair will feature several speakers on this subject. One is David Lomax from Waugh Thistleton Architects, a firm based in the United Kingdom. Lomax will talk about Dalston Lane, which is the world's largest mass-timber (or CLT – cross-laminated timber) building. Under construction in London, Dalston Lane's ten storeys and 121 units are made "entirely of CLT, from the external, party and core walls, through to the floors and stairs, weighing a fifth of a concrete building of this size, and reducing the number of deliveries during construction by 80 per cent."

Liam Dewar, also from the United Kingdom, will be offering up a presentation about "Timber for the Masses." Dewar is a founding director of Eurban Limited, "the UK's leading specialist in mass-timber construction," a company with more than three-hundred mass-timber projects to its credit.

Alberta-based guests will also be talking about mass timber in construction, including one presentation about the use of mass timber in Calgary schools and another about the latest research in mass-timber panels. As well, the team behind the design and building of Calgary's new Rocky Ridge Recreation Facility, which features the largest wood roof structure in North America, will also be on the presentation bill. "They'll talk about how their collaborative experience came together in putting up this project," describes Koska.

Another highlight of this year's Fair is a seminar on how to use the Canadian Wood Council's interactive, Wall Thermal Design calculator, a free tool to help builders construct walls in compliance with the new energy requirements.

Besides the ten presentations, the trade-floor component of the Prairie Wood Solutions Fair will see some 23 wood-based exhibitors from across Canada.

Koska estimates an attendance of about three- to four-hundred people from across Western Canada, as the Prairie Wood Solutions Fair is only one of four such events in the country, with similar fairs taking place in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

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