University building Canada's tallest academic timber building

A rendering of the new Academic Wood Tower. 

Photo By Patkau Architects + MJMA

The University of Toronto has begun construction on a new 14-story mass timber building that will not only be the tallest academic timber structure in Canada, but the school said it will also set a precedent for sustainable design.

A $3.9-million federal contribution to the University of Toronto has been made for the construction of a 14-story mass timber academic and research tower on its St. George campus. 

The contribution comes through the Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) program.

The new building, with its "innovative design and creative wood structure," will provide a new and creative workspace for several faculties and act as a living laboratory to further the university’s innovation agenda, the school said. The structure is being constructed almost entirely from engineered Canadian timber.

Designed by award-winning Canadian firms Patkau Architects and MJMA Architecture & Design with consulting from Blackwell Structural Engineers and Smith+Andersen, the Academic Wood Tower’s unique and sustainable structure has already won a Canadian Architect Award of Excellence.

The same team worked on U of T’s Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport, which included the tower’s foundation and basement as part of its construction. Now, with the first deliveries of mass-timber components to the site, construction of the Academic Wood Tower is proceeding under the management of industry leader Pomerleau. The university anticipates completing the building in 2026.

The building is expected to serve as a case study for designers and engineers who can analyze this milestone achievement and potentially apply the tower’s best practices to their own projects.

Mass timber products require less energy to produce and store carbon dioxide. By choosing mass timber, construction projects are reducing pollution and energy waste while contributing to a growing area of climate action. Mass timber products sustainably contribute to the future of low-carbon construction and the development Canada’s bioeconomy in a manner that is consistent with the forest carbon cycle.

This project helps to expand Canada’s wood market into tall wood buildings, creating good jobs in the forest and construction sectors that contribute to Canada’s fight against the climate crisis.

Across Canada, the construction sector is transforming, with more low-carbon solutions like wood-based materials and systems being used. From conservation to sustainable development, Canada’s forest economy supports many communities and directly employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians who will continue to contribute economically to building a net-zero future.

The Government of Canada is supporting Canadian industries and workers, who are innovating to meet the growing global demand for more sustainable construction materials such as mass timber, carbon-cured concrete and zero-emissions steel.

“The Government of Canada's Green Construction through Wood program is supporting more sustainable Canadian materials for the construction industry. The University of Toronto’s Academic Wood Tower project is one of many examples of innovative technologies being used to create resilient and low-carbon buildings, while preventing carbon emissions. I congratulate all those involved in this important project,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources.

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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).