Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Wood Micro Apartments?

Economics dictates that you should build your development with wood framing if the building code lets you - unless a buyer will pay the required extra $100+ per square foot to live in the perceived solidity and safety of concrete construction.

After all, will anyone really care once the plasterboard has been set?

Recent evidence shows that the home buyer in Canada will live in smaller quarters in concrete buildings, but can the current 'micro-sized apartment' movement find opportunity in a wood framed building?

The question is a cultural history one.

In downtown Melbourne, Australia, there is one of the tallest modern timber buildings in the world (10 floors) and no one seemed to mind when the sales began. In Canada, though - a land established on tales of tall timber, it can be a concern.

Evenings toasting marshmallows in front of the campfire may not have helped the timber industry. Is it possible that deep in the Canadian psyche everybody knows: wood burns. More than that - there is a lot of it in British Columbia and like any supply and demand scenario, that makes it seem less valuable.

Add to this the bad press of the leaky mould producing four storey wood frame buildings of the nineties and wood is fighting a huge battle for equality.

In Canada the government has pushed back some, calling for wood to be a major component in any public building. Here, 'Cross Laminated Timber' and 'Laminated Veneer Lumber' known as mass timber construction is doing well to bring solidity to the wood debate.

However, in the developer's world (where the coal mine canary lives), the question for micro-apartments and wood framed buildings remains: "If you build it, will they come?"

The answer may lie in mass timber panels and prefabrication, where computer driven accuracy and fine detail resolution can bring a renewed opportunity to express the beauty of wood.

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