🪵 Critical mass

Mass timber projects are getting taller and taller...

Good morning and vroom vroom! 🚗 Your next work truck or piece of heavy equipment could be electric. A major drop in lithium prices could make electric vehicles much more affordable in the future. After remaining elevated for two years, the price of lithium carbonate — a key ingredient in EV batteries — plummeted by more than 65% since January.

Speaking of electricity, the buzz around tall mass timber buildings has been substantial. But how tall is too tall? Keep reading to find out.

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*Stock data as of last market close; currency, oil and crypto data as of 11:00 PM ET April 17th, 2023.

Markets: A major railroad merger could open the door to higher cargo volumes and faster transport in North America. A recently completed merger between the Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. with Kansas City Southern Railway Co., created the only railway stretching from Canada through to the U.S. and Mexico. It also marks the continent's first major rail merger in more than two decades after a U.S. regulator approved the $31 billion US deal last month.


Is mass timber getting too massive?

The Atlassian is a mass timber project being built in Australia. - ShoP and BVN

Mass timber is getting taller and taller. But is there any benefit to reaching so far into the skies?

A new 12-storey mass timber building is under construction in Burnaby, B.C. and other, far more ambitious projects are being planned in Canada and around the world.

This could be good news for the planet, as researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) believe disaster resilient mass timber buildings could be crucial for addressing housing while also meeting climate goals.

Experts at the school are collaborating with dozens of other universities, government partners and industry leaders to investigate the next generation of wood construction. In recent years, builders have been pushing to see how tall mass timber can go.

Pushing the envelope: While Vancouver’s Brock Commons made headlines in 2017, the world’s current tallest mass timber building is The Ascent in Milwaukee. The 493,000-square-foot, mixed-use building contains 259 apartments, a pool on the sixth floor, and a top-floor amenity level. Engineers say the mass timber material has helped it exceed the city’s energy conservation code requirements.

Other contenders:

  • In Vancouver, a team is planning a 37-storey hybrid mass timber building called the Canada Earth Tower.

  • An even taller mass timber build is already under construction in Sydney, Australia. The 39-storey Atlassian Central will have a floor space of 75,000 square metres of floor space.

  • Another Milwaukee building, the Edison, structure was initially planned as a 15-story building with around 200 units overlooking the Milwaukee River, but revised plans are bumping it up to a 28-story high-rise with 296 apartments.

Too close to the sun: Some experts believe the race to build taller mass timber is misguided. In an interview with Dezeen, some designers and engineers stated that above certain heights and spans, the size of timber elements is so large it becomes uneconomical and it limits the amount of useable space. They noted that more effort should be put into investigating the full lifecycle of these buildings and the possibility of reusing old materials.


The week's headlines

Toronto has one of the largest fleets of cranes deployed in North America right now.

🔥 Authorities are investigating the cause of a massive fire in Vaughan, Ont. that destroyed or damaged 71 homes under construction at a job site. Of those 71 units, 31 were detached homes, 23 were townhouses and several others were basements where a floor deck had been installed.

🏗️ Toronto is rising above the rest when it comes to cranes. According to the latest Crane Index from consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall, the Ontario city has more cranes currently deployed than New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. combined. The only other Canadian city on the index, Calgary, currently has 20 cranes in use.

♻️ A soil reclamation company in Nanaimo, B.C. is taking contaminated soils that would normally be dumped into landfills and using it to produce clean clay and gravel for landscaping, construction and more.

🤝 A major leadership change is underway at EllisDon, one of Canada’s largest construction companies. Kieran Hawe, EllisDon’s current chief operating officer of construction, will succeed Geoff Smith as Chief Executive Officer this summer. Smith spearheaded the employee-ownership program among many other initiatives at the company.

🔎 New research by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis and commissioned by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) suggests the federal government is underfunding municipalities and public infrastructure, while reaping the greatest proportion of tax dollars from high-tax policies on homebuilding.


The Well to create an urban oasis

402 Dunsmuir - B+H Architects

The Well in Toronto is poised to give thousands in the city a place to live and work. The scope is immense. The project includes 3.2-million-square feet of development that occupies eight acres. There will be six residential condo buildings, 1.2 million square feet of office space and 350,000 square feet of residential use. Development partners RioCan REIT and Allied Properties REIT say the project’s design grew from a global survey of successful large-scale urban redevelopments. Parts of the project are already open and more are set to open later this year.


Scott Construction was selected to manage the St. Vincent’s Heather long-term care home project

Heidelberg Materials chooses Edmonton for world’s first net-zero cement plant 

A $54.5-million contract has been awarded for the Keating overpass

Alberta reconsidering approved project after report on carbon-storing wetland

Toronto announces traffic plan for Ontario line construction work


A Kiewit engineer has a new rescue puppy and they aren’t afraid to show it. - Kiewit

PHOTO: 🐕 Kiewit engineer rescues tiny pup

READ: ⏩ North Van builder constructs house frame in two days

SURVEY: ✍️ B.C. builders reveal what is stressing them out

READ: ⚡ Europe’s largest nuclear reactor is up and running

WATCH: 🐰 Bunnies rescued from Vancouver Island construction site


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Here’s to a great rest of the week!