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First mid-rise wood building in Ontario a hotel in Hamilton

Ever since January 1 this year when it became legal to construct wood-frame buildings up to six storeys tall in Ontario, there’s been a rising sense of anticipation in the building industry. Who will be the first? What kind of building will it be? Where will it be built? The suspense was finally relieved when a British Columbia-based hotel chain announced at the end of March that it would take the lead in Ontario—such buildings have been permitted in British Columbia for several years already—and build the province’s first mid-rise wooden building: a six-storey hotel in Hamilton, Ontario.

The wood industry is naturally delighted. The Canadian Wood Council congratulated Hamilton “for recognizing the innovative opportunity” that now exists for Ontario, as a result of the changes to the building code. The wood advocacy group Ontario Wood WORKS! added its congratulations, saying that “it won’t be long before these buildings are found in urban areas across the province.”

This is great news for our economy, Our work is paying off and we look forward to other ventures in the near future. It’s great to see this mixed-use project get approved. We’re excited as we anticipate the approval of the first building permit for a six-storey wood-frame residential building.

The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), one of several industry groups, including the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, that had lobbied the government for the building code changes, also said that the impact of wood construction would be “huge,” filling a gap in the mid-rise segment. Traditional reinforced concrete buildings are very expensive to build, according to RESCON president Richard Lyall. Building higher with timber frame, he said, will be more economical, and more green. Mid-rise construction is seen as a way of providing more affordable housing and intensifying some of the main street corridors in Toronto. “This is great news for our economy,” Lyall said.

Wood is renewable, has a low carbon footprint and it’s very clean. “You don’t have a lot of concrete trucks running around. It’s less noisy in built-up areas,” said Lyall. “I think this is really going to take off both within high-density areas like the city of Toronto and in smaller towns,” he said. Increased use of wood will also benefit Ontario’s forestry industry. He would like to see even higher wood-frame buildings in Ontario eventually.

The Hamilton building will be a 209-room Sandman Hotel. Lyall said that the industry had been expecting a multi-unit residential development to be “first out of the gate” with plans for a wood development but said that it was encouraging to see a commercial developer take the lead in this.

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