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BUILDEX Calgary gets to the root of iconic wood projects

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by Kathleen Renne

Wood construction will be at the centre of a PechaKucha-style presentation at this year’s BUILDEX Calgary today (Nov. 8).
The Mosaic Centre in Edmonton recently achieved LEED Platinum. The project was built in 11 months using integrated project delivery and boasts 100 per cent egress lighting on the top office floors. The centre was highlighted during a PechaKucha-style presentation at this year’s BUILDEX Calgary, which discussed iconic wood projects.
The Mosaic Centre in Edmonton recently achieved LEED Platinum. The project was built in 11 months using integrated project delivery and boasts 100 per cent egress lighting on the top office floors. The centre was highlighted during a PechaKucha-style presentation at this year’s BUILDEX Calgary, which discussed iconic wood projects. - Photo: FILE PHOTO

Titled Iconic Wood Projects, the presentation will feature three architects who will be discussing their respective wood buildings.

On the program are Bill Marshall, a principal with Marshall Tittemore Architects, who'll be discussing the Canmore Civic Centre; Troy Smith, a principal with Group2 Architecture, who'll be showcasing the Meadows Recreation Centre in Edmonton; and Vedran Skopac, an architect with Manasc Isaac Architects, who will be talking about Edmonton's Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce.

The presentation will be headed up by Rory Koska, the program director of WoodWORKS! Alberta.

Koska says these projects have been selected because "they are very large structures that, today, are typically built of other materials but have been designed and built in wood instead."

Koska says buildings like these – as well as pools and hockey arenas – used to be built of wood some 50 or 60 years ago. Then the design community changed and such large structures are now often built using masonry and steel.

But the pendulum seems to be shifting back.

"It's becoming more of a frequently-used product once again. It's an additional tool for a builder's toolbox," Koska says, adding that's particularly true when the concept of sustainability, a guiding principal behind these three builds, enters the picture.

"The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce certainly used wood because it's considered carbon neutral and because it can be regrown indefinitely. Sustainability was one of the top priorities with this project," Koska explains.

"The Canmore Civic Centre was conceived in the early 2000s. It's the second Silver LEED project in Alberta. It explored mechanical building innovation, solar heating and energy efficiency," says Bill Marshall of his project. "The Civic Centre is, effectively, Canmore's own demonstration of sustainable architecture. They figured if they want developers to pursue sustainable building practices, they should demonstrate it themselves."

When it comes to contemplating the future of wood construction, Koska says it involves "going bigger and going taller."

In fact, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) just announced a new Tall Wood Buildings Demonstration program called Green Construction through Wood (GCWood). The program offers funding support for the construction of Canadian wood structures that are 10 storeys or more in height.

"This is the second round of funding from NRCan, where the first round was successful in two projects: Brock Commons at the University of British Columbia (18-storeys) and Project Origine in Quebec (13 storeys)," says Koska.

Through GCWood, up to $5-million is available for each selected project. Applications are due Dec. 6.

Currently, Koska says the National Building Code accepts six-storey, wood-frame construction. Now the wood-construction industry is working towards having mass-wood construction also included in the National Building Code. Mass wood construction uses large panels that can range from two- to 10-feet wide and up to 60 feet in length.

"Wood is cost competitive with other materials and the speed of construction is faster. Furthermore, with wood construction, there are generally fewer workers onsite and smaller equipment required," Koska states.

Beyond these benefits, however, as exemplified by all three structures featured during the Iconic Wood Projects presentation, there is "a warmth and sense of well being when you go into buildings made of wood," Koska explains.

"Being around a natural material, it's not something that's quantifiable by charts and numbers, but you see it when people enter these buildings and look up to the wood beams," Koska says. "Wood buildings really speak for themselves. Their designers and builders celebrate the use of the wood. It becomes not just the base of the structure but part of the interior design as well."

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