Wood performance

Wood is versatile, flexible and cost-effective

Wood offers distinctive value and versatility. From its smaller carbon footprint and prefabricated advantages to its nimble assembly, building professionals are tapping into new opportunities in wood construction and design. 

Advantages and benefits of wood construction

Wood is valued for its beauty, strength, flexibility and practicality. It can be cut, carved, planed, milled, bent, joined, glued, nailed, bolted, laminated, spliced and weathered. It can be a load-bearing structure, a finish material or an exterior cladding. As a building material, wood is easily adapted, reused or recycled. It is well suited to additions and retrofits, and wood systems can be dismantled with relative ease and used elsewhere. Wood construction has long been used for energy-efficient design and provides some of the world’s most affordable and comfortable housing. Wood is used in the vast majority of single-family homes in Canada and many multifamily projects.

Experienced wood contractors are widely available, and workers of varying skill levels can quickly learn wood construction techniques. Wood construction can be done on site, allowing for quick solutions when changes are required.

Wood is used in many types of buildings, from single-storey homes to condominiums, multi-storey offices, schools, industrial facilities, recreational centers and arenas. And as we grapple with an ever-growing need for affordable housing, wood is delivering economical, comfortable and safe solutions.

Earth Sciences Building, UBC
Photo credit: KK Law

Modular Student

Factory-built wood buildings deliver value and cost-savings

Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, saved time and money when they assembled a student housing building with 90 wood-built modules. Jacobson Hall was built in just nine months adding beds for another 220 students. Each dorm room takes 14 days to complete, a process the fabricator says is approximately 50% faster than conventional construction.


Wood is well-suited to affordable, prefabricated and low-carbon construction

Wood can be a compelling alternative to other more carbon-intensive materials, offering distinctive value and savings. It is well suited to rapid all-season prefabricated construction that is quieter, cleaner, lighter to transport and saves time. As cities continue to grow exponentially, this means less noise and disruption in dense urban settings. Modular wood building systems can be easily put together akin to ‘life-sized Lego’.

They can be assembled by fewer workers in tight more difficult-to-reach construction sites. Precisely manufactured assemblies, such as prefabricated light-frame walls and mass timber panels, provide thermal benefits and can help make building envelopes more energy-efficient and airtight. Wood buildings are well suited to energy-efficient construction and the rigorous standards of Passive House and net-zero-ready design. Whether made of light-frame wood systems, panelized products or factory-built assemblies, wood construction is economical and expedient. This is increasingly supported by benchmarked studies and reports.

Wood can often be locally sourced and manufactured. Wood’s smaller environmental footprint means it can meet the anticipated regulatory requirements for buildings to achieve carbon targets. ​This combined with its lighter weight can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted during transportation to construction sites. Along with environmental benefits, this reduction in weight lessens the need for more costly foundation work and in some cases, in poor soil conditions, timber buildings can be built taller than steel and concrete.

Earth Sciences Building, UBC
Photo credit: KK Law


Wood can integrate mechanical components into structural solutions with beauty

Wood can serve double duty, integrating mechanical components into structural solutions. Guildford Aquatic Centre’s prefabricated 29-metre-long wood trusses conceal preinstalled mechanical ducts, sprinklers, uplighting, and acoustic ceiling insulation.  

Guildford Aquatic Centre, Surrey
Photo credit: Ema Peter Photography

Wood delivers benefits beyond cost and design efficiencies

When considered over its lifetime—from the harvest of raw materials through manufacturing, transportation, construction, disposal or recycling—wood has less embodied energy, reduces air and water pollution and has a smaller carbon footprint. Wood can help maximize a building’s energy efficiency. Its low thermal conductivity compared to steel and concrete makes it well suited to high-performance Passive House and net-zero ready design. It is part of BC’s climate solution.

Beyond environmental benefits, building with local wood products boosts communities, jobs and the economy. For example, through a collaboration of the local, regional, and Gitxsan governments, the community of Upper Skeena realized their vision of a new multifunctional recreation centre built with wood. Beyond offering a cost-effective solution, the all-wood facility brought value to the community in the form of jobs, culture, social support and community pride.

Upper Skeena Recreation Centre, Hazelton
Photo credit: Ema Peter Photography, courtesy Hemsworth Architecture


Carbon Calculator by Canadian Wood Council

Use the Carbon Calculator by the Canadian Wood Council to quantify the benefits of building with wood while achieving thermal performance.  Specific wood product and building information is put into the Calculator and the tool provides estimates of carbon storage in the building and missions avoided as a result of using less carbon-intensive materials. This includes how much time it takes Canadian and US forests to grow that volume of wood along with the associated carbon benefits—both the amount of carbon stored and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions avoided.