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The pros and cons of building high rises with wood

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From the outside, the construction project underway at 80 Atlantic Ave. in Liberty Village looks like your typical new office building.

But peer through the large spaces where windows will soon be installed and you’ll notice that above the ground floor there is wood everywhere — walls, ceilings, support beams. Only the underground parking, ground floor and elevator core are concrete and steel.

Arbora, a massive mixed use development in Montreal's trendy Griffintown neighbourhood, consists of three buildings that are made primarily from wood.
Arbora, a massive mixed use development in Montreal’s trendy Griffintown neighbourhood, consists of three buildings that are made primarily from wood.  (LSR GesDev)

Designed by Toronto architectural firm Quadrangle, the soon to be completed five-storey office and retail project is a rarity in Toronto — most buildings in the city are still made entirely of concrete and steel.

Like Sidewalk Labs’s proposal to build a high tech neighbourhood in Toronto, with thousands of condominium and apartment units built with timber, the subject of wood buildings is creating a buzz.

Canada already has the world’s tallest wooden building — Tallwood House, an 18-storey student residence at the University of British Columbia — and there are wood structures in Europe and the U.S.

Proponents tout the environmental and esthetic benefits of using the product, but some builders say there are challenges.

“There are many additional things you don’t foresee when you start one of these projects,” said Marc-André Roy, president of Sotramont, a Montreal-based developer that’s one of four partners working on Arbora, a massive mixed-use project made primarily from wood.

“It is much more work,” Roy said in an interview. “We’re doing something new. It took more energy and man hours to get through everything … it’s more complicated.”

The wood used for Arbora is cross-laminated timber (CLT) a product made by gluing wood panels in an angled manner that provides stability and force. The panels are said to be as strong as concrete but five times lighter, making them ideal for floors and load-bearing walls.

But while it may be lighter, there’s debate about whether wood construction is actually cheaper.

Toronto architectural firm Diamond Schmitt has successfully used mass timber for projects including a law school in Kamloops B.C., a trades school in Alberta, and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Diamond Schmitt principal Michael Leckman said that in those cases, “timber prefabrication reduced construction times and reduced costs.”

He added, however, that “cost savings in timber construction are highly dependent on the local construction market, the readiness of bidders and trades to adapt to new methods,” and the ability of those involved to feel confident taking risks with an unfamiliar product.

Aly Damji, a senior vice-president with Toronto-based developer Hullmark, said the cost of using wood was “generally … on par with concrete and steel” for the 80 Atlantic project.

The wood used for Arbora is cross-laminated timber (CLT) a product made by gluing wood panels in an angled manner that provides stability and force. The panels are said to be as strong as concrete but five times lighter, making them ideal for floors and load-bearing walls.
The wood used for Arbora is cross-laminated timber (CLT) a product made by gluing wood panels in an angled manner that provides stability and force. The panels are said to be as strong as concrete but five times lighter, making them ideal for floors and load-bearing walls.  (LSR GesDev handout)

“Our construction estimates priced in the learning curve,” Damji said. “Contingency was built into co-ordinating how our consultants, architects, as well as our structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, would be able to co-ordinate with wood.”

But others take a harder view of wood’s costs in construction.

“It’s not cheaper,” said Annie Lemieux, president of developer LSR GesDev, which is also a partner in the $150-million Arbora project. “Wood ends up costing more than concrete because it’s more complicated and people don’t know how it works.”

Roy said an example of that complexity is the tubes (or “sleeves”) that are usually built into concrete walls for plumbing.

“You don’t put sleeves in wood because (the wood) comes in a slab, pre-made, so you have to bore holes in the wood,” he said.

“You can say, ‘That’s easier, it’s wood’— in theory, yes. But in practice, nobody has experience doing that, so I have to get a guy to bore holes using a special drill. It’s done by a carpenter who, in theory, doesn’t usually do that.”

Designed by Toronto architectural firm Quadrangle, the soon to be completed five-storey office and retail project is a rarity in Toronto — most buildings in the city are still made entirely of concrete and steel.
Designed by Toronto architectural firm Quadrangle, the soon to be completed five-storey office and retail project is a rarity in Toronto — most buildings in the city are still made entirely of concrete and steel.  (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)

Another challenge is the assumption that wood will burn faster. Roy says fire testing has been done on wood buildings in Canada to ensure their safety, and notes that there are also fire risks associated with concrete and steel.

“A solid piece of wood will char, but not burn. If you remove the charring you’ll still have a solid structure,” he said. “With a fire in a concrete building, there are rods in the concrete that will dilate and make the concrete explode. With steel, the fire makes it melt.”

In theory, wood buildings should be quicker to construct because the product arrives prefabricated — unlike concrete, which takes time to form on site.

But acquiring wood products can be an issue because there aren’t many companies that supply it for big projects. A director for Timmerman Timberworks, which is located near Barrie and is providing wood for the 80 Atlantic project, said the firm needs more than six to eight weeks lead time to get the product to a builder.

Despite those challenges, proponents of wood tout its esthetics, as well as the environmental benefits of using a product that “sequesters” carbon dioxide.

In theory, wood buildings should be quicker to construct because the product arrives prefabricated — unlike concrete, which takes time to form on site. But acquiring wood products can be an issue because there aren’t many companies that supply it for big projects.
In theory, wood buildings should be quicker to construct because the product arrives prefabricated — unlike concrete, which takes time to form on site. But acquiring wood products can be an issue because there aren’t many companies that supply it for big projects.  (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)

Damji said Hullmark went with wood for 80 Atlantic after the Ontario Building Code was changed in 2015 to allow wood frame structures as tall as six storeys from the previous four. He said the decision was based on the notion the product would bring something “unique” to the market and lure prospective tenants from the standard highrise towers on King St.

Spaces, a workspace provider, and Universal Music are among those set to move into 80 Atlantic when it’s finished later this year, along with Jackman Reinvents, a management consulting, design and branding agency.

Jackman Reinvents CEO Joe Jackman said 80 Atlantic will offer his business a “sustainable and healthful place in terms of construction and specification.”

In Montreal, Arbora’s three eight-storey towers are being built in Griffintown, a hip community where the sustainable and innovative nature of wood construction is appreciated, say Roy and Lemieux.

That’s key to projects like this succeeding, they argue.

“The wood environment is very calming compared to other projects made of concrete. These residents want that,” Lemieux said.

“So for this location and clientele, this works well.” Roy added.

And as for the future of wood buildings?

“As it becomes more mainstream, perhaps it will compete with steel and concrete,” Roy said. “But to penetrate the market. you’ll need a competitive advantage.”

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent



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These US entities partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — time for a criminal investigation?

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(Natural News) The Wuhan Institute of Virology from which the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is believed to have “escaped” has a number of questionable partnerships that are worth looking into in light of the pandemic.

Most of them are universities, including the University of Alabama, the University of North Texas, and Harvard University. There is also the EcoHealth Alliance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Wildlife Federation.

While the relationships between these entities and the Wuhan Institute of Virology may be completely innocent, there is no way to really say for sure without a proper investigation. And this is exactly what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling for, as is the nation of Australia.

Pompeo and the folks down under, along with millions of Americans, would really like to know the true origins of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). An increasing number of people simply are not buying the narrative that the novel virus originated in bat soup at a Chinese wet market, and this even includes mainstream media outlets like Fox News.

The only way to really determine what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and who else might have been involved. is to open the place up for an international investigation. But communist China is against this, of course, accusing Australia of “petty tricks” and collusion with the United States.

“Overnight, I saw comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry talking about a course of activity with respect to Australia who had the temerity to ask for investigation,” Pompeo is quoted as saying in response to China’s aggression against a proposed investigation.

“Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” he added.

As the U.S. aims to get back on track economically speaking, Pompeo believes that now is the time to hold communist China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and whoever else may have been involved accountable for unleashing this pandemic on the world.

“Not only American wealth, but the global economy’s devastation as a result of this virus,” Pompeo further stated. “There will be a time for this. We will get that timing right.”

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New U.S. analysis finds that lab in Wuhan, China was “most likely” origin of coronavirus release

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(Natural News) While American Leftists and most of the Democrat Party continue to serve as apologists for the Chinese Communist regime over its role in creating and then perpetuating the coronavirus pandemic, a new U.S. government analysis concludes that COVID-19 “most likely” escaped from a lab near Wuhan city.

The Washington Times reports that the analysis cataloged evidence linking the outbreak to the Wuhan lab and has found that other explanations for the origins of the virus are not as credible.

The paper reported:

The document, compiled from open sources and not a finished product, says there is no smoking gun to blame the virus on either the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both located in the city where the first outbreaks were reported.

However, “there is circumstantial evidence to suggest such may be the case,” the paper says.

“All other possible places of the virus’ origin have been proven to be highly unlikely,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by the Times.

ChiCom officials have claimed that the virus’ origin is unknown. However, Beijing initially stated that coronavirus came from animals at a “wet market” in Wuhan where exotic meats are butchered and sold in disgusting conditions.

Chinese officials claim that COVID-19 went from bats to animals sold in the market last year, then infected humans.

U.S. intelligence officials have increasingly dismissed that explanation, however, as attention has begun to focus on evidence suggesting that Chinese medical researchers were working with coronavirus in the country’s only Level 4 facility, which is in Wuhan.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that intelligence agencies are investigating whether the virus escaped from a lab or was the result of a naturally occurring outbreak, but that analysts have ruled out reports that COVID-19 was manmade.

‘The most logical place to investigate the virus origin has been completely sealed off’

“At this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural,” the general said on April 14, “but we don’t know for certain.”

The analysis said that the wet market explanation does not ring true because the first human diagnosis of coronavirus was made in someone who had no connection to the wet market in question. And according to Chinese reports, no bats were sold at that particular market.

At the same time, several questionable actions and a growing paper trail provide clues that the virus actually escaped from a lab, even as China begins to clamp down on those information streams.

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The biggest media lies about the coronavirus: Origins, treatments and vaccines

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(Natural News) If there is one thing that most everyone can agree on concerning the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is the fact that there is no shortage of conflicting information out there about the nature of it. And the mainstream media is certainly doing its part to steer the narrative as part of a larger agenda, using plenty of misinformation along the way.

The following are among the most commonly parroted lies about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that aim to distort the facts and deceive you into believing falsehoods about this pandemic:

Media LIE: The virus is not man-made

From the very beginning of this thing, the official narrative was that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) came from a Chinese wet market where bats and other “exotic” animals are sold as meat. But the world later learned that it actually more than likely “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The mainstream media and social media platforms went nuts trying to censor this information and even called it  “fake news.” But eventually it became undeniable that bat soup was not responsible for spreading the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) around Wuhan and eventually to the rest of the world – hence why we continue to call it the Wuhan coronavirus rather than just COVID-19.

We have even seen attempts by the media machine at making the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) a racial issue because there are supposedly more “people of color” coming down with it than people with fair skin, which further detracts attention away from the source of this virus.

Media LIE: Hydroxychloroquine is extremely dangerous and doesn’t work

The minute that President Donald Trump announced that hydroxychloroquine may be an effective, and very inexpensive, remedy for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the mainstream media immediately began decrying this claim as fake news, even though Anthony Fauci himself praised hydroxychloroquine back in 2013 under Barack Obama as being some type of “miracle cure” for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

There have even been studies conducted that were designed to intentionally smear the drug as both ineffective and dangerous, though one in particular purposely left out zinc, which appears to be a critical co-factor in supporting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine – in other words, politics as usual.

Media LIE: Only a vaccine can save us from coronavirus

Many politicians and public health officials are parroting the lie that the only way America can come out of lockdown and go back to “normal” is to get vaccinated with some future vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that does not even yet exist. A vaccine, we are repeatedly told, is the only thing, or perhaps some new “blockbuster” antiviral drug, that can cure the world of this scourge and make everything happy and wonderful once again.

Meanwhile, not a peep is being made about things like intravenous (IV) high-dose vitamin C, which is being successfully used in other countries to stem the tide of infections without the need for new drugs and vaccines.

By omission, nutrition is pointless

Speaking of natural approaches to overcoming the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that are being systematically ignored by the mainstream media and most in politics, have you heard anyone mention the importance of nutrition in all of this? We did not think so, and this is intentional.

Regular readers of this site over the years should know by now that the single-most important thing you need to do to stay healthy besides exercising regularly is to feed your body the nutrition it needs to naturally ward off illnesses, including those associated with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Research compiled by the Lewin Group reveals that nutritional remedies such as calcium, vitamin D, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more all play a critical role in fortifying the immune system, which, if properly nourished, should have little problem fending off disease.

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