St. Thomas timber plant receives $5 million in funding as part of province’s commitment to increasing use of timber in home building

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By Kristen Frisa

Ontario Construction Report staff writer

John Yakabuski, minister of natural resources and forestry, has announced $5 million in funding to help build Ontario’s first cross laminated timber plant in St. Thomas. The facility, owned by Element5, is expected to cost $32 million, creating more 60 jobs in St. Thomas while supporting Ontario’s  forestry industry.

The provincial government has committed to promoting the use of sustainable renewable resources, including the increased use of Ontario timber in the construction industry. “Element5’s new facility will showcase the kind of innovation we want to see more of in Ontario,” Yakabuski said. 

The funding is coming from Ontario’s Forestry Growth Fund, which is intended to help improve productivity, innovation, and competitiveness of the industry.

“I’m pleased to support Element5’s work to create cost-effective and environmentally friendly building materials from sustainable renewable resources,” says Jeff  Yurek, minister of the environment, conservation and parks and MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

“Mass timber construction will be an important innovation that can help bring housing to market faster, while still meeting the high standards in the Ontario Building Code to protect public health and safety,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Frank Dottori, industry leadership at Element5, said the funding will help Ontario, and specifically St. Thomas, become the centre of the mass timber industry in North America.

The forestry sector is currently responsible for 150,000 direct and indirect jobs across Ontario. The plant will be among the first fully-automated cross laminated timber plants. 

Cross-laminated timber is a massive, solid wood structural panel. It is an answer to the construction industry’s increasing demand for prefabricated building solutions, and is an alternative to concrete and steel in the construction of buildings from one to 18 storeys.

Use of timber in building has seen increasing support in past months. The federal government’s Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) helped fund the Arbour, a tall wood building in Toronto, as part of its encouragement of the use of wood in non-traditional construction projects. 

“We know how important innovative forest products are to meeting climate change targets,” said Adam Vaughan, member of parliament for Spadina–Fort York at a May funding announcement for the Arbour. Meanwhile, the province’s Building with Wood website touts the benefits of building with wood, including lower building costs, safe and reliable flexibility in structures, lower greenhouse gas emissions, proven fire safety, and a structural comparability in strength to concrete and steel.

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