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BLOG: "Wood Buildings – Moving to Mainstream" at the RAIC Festival of Architecture

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by JOC News Service

Penelope Martyn, the green building manager at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Angelique Pilon, the research manager for the UBC Sustainability Initiative were the presenters for the "Wood Buildings – Moving to Mainstream in Canada" session at the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada's Festival of Architecture on May 26 in downtown Ottawa.
BLOG: "Wood Buildings – Moving to Mainstream" at the RAIC Festival of Architecture

Wood, Martyn said, is currently viewed as a commodity rather than a tradition for Canada, but there is a First nations tradition of creating with wood. There was also a European tradition of post and groove as well as square lofts. There are also buildings in Vancouver with wood columns and beams as well as brick.

Mass housing came at the end of the 19th century using stick frames. First Nations wood culture collapsed as did the European tradition. For larger buildings, steel and concrete were used.

However new trends have taken off in the last ten years, Pilon said. Tall buildings are a growing trend, as are wood that is curved and shaped through computer aided design.

Wood is a great fit for Canada, Pilon added, as currently wood is an export product but it could create a manufacturing base that encourages innovation.

UBC's wood policy, and that of British Columbia, follows the Wood First policy, which states public buildings should be (if possible) built primarily of wood. Campus design guidelines reflect the Wood First policy, but "we want structures out of wood for all the buildings if possible" Martyn said.

UBC also must hit LEED Gold, and life cycle assessment takes wood into consideration.

The First Nations House of Learning on the UBC campus used wood for cultural and traditional reasons. Built in 1993, it was inspired by Coast Salish longhouses but used post-modern techniques. Logs were picked out of the forest and milled specifically for the building, which uses heavy timber construction for both columns and beams. The Great Hall within the building has four posts, each one carved by a different First Nations artist.

The Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility is also composed primarily of wood, using glulam columns and beams, and cross-laminated timber floors.

"The great thing about the building is that wood is used in different ways. It's set in a forest, built almost entirely of wood and also uses waste wood," Martyn said.

The Campus Energy Centre, which is used for the campus hot water system, uses glulam and CLT and surrounds industrial equipment with a wood super structure.

Brock Commons Tallwood House, an 18-storey tall student residence, is the most recent addition to the UBC "wood portfolio." The building uses a mass timber hybrid structure, with steel connections throughout the building. There is a concrete transfer slab on the second floor and a concrete foundation, but the walls are cross-laminated timber (CLT). The building connections use wood encapsulation.

The construction process relied on prefabrication with just-in-time delivery, given the small size of the site. CLT panels were craned directly into place. It took 9.5 weeks to construct the building, which was two weeks ahead of schedule. Every aspect of the building, including penetrations of CLT panels was pre-designed, and things were brought to the site ready to go.

The interiors however are "entirely conventional," Pilon said, and follow a similar look and feel to other campus residences.

The UBC Bookstore was changed from an "ugly concrete box" to a warm space with a substantial amount of daylight. CLT was put in between the existing steel frame. The new Student Union Building, dubbed "The Nest" boasts a wood atrium, in order to encourage sustainability. The Engineering Student Centre uses large glulam trusses to create and open space.

Wood has a lower embodied energy and global warming potential, and sequesters carbon, thus falling in line with UBC's sustainability goals.

UBC aims for simple and replicable design solutions, and uses Integrated Design Processes (IPD) and also relies on BIM as well as full-scale mock ups.

To mitigate risk, in terms of water and fire, the building enclosure and wood treatment and toppings are used. On-site moisture content monitoring is employed, and people on site and taught fire prevention and response. Flammable work is also done off site.

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