Vancouver welcomes the world’s tallest timber tower
This hybrid of wood, concrete and steel will be a residence for UBC students
October 12, 2016
Next summer, UBC will become home to the tallest mass wood structure on planet Earth, and it’s no log cabin. Standing 53 metres high, the 18-storey Brock Commons student residence, designed by Vancouver-based Acton Ostry Architects, is a hybrid of wood, concrete and steel, and it passes all the same building codes that a concrete building must. According to lead architect Russell Acton, the process was “fast, straightforward—and we’ve demonstrated a way that it could be repeated legitimately and easily.”
What is Mass Wood?
Dense panels and columns are created by gluing layers of softwood lumber together under heavy pressure.
Many of the building’s components were pre-made off-site, while the outside structure was assembled in just 66 days. (Think Ikea furniture.) “Pre-fabricated panels are craned into place,” Acton says. “They’re about three metres high by eight metres wide, and they have windows installed in them beforehand.”
Mass wood is a renewable resource that stores carbon dioxide and whose production emits less greenhouse gas than pouring concrete. According to Acton, using wood instead of just concrete or steel has the equivalent environmental impact of taking 511 cars off the road for a year.
Mass wood doesn’t burn like a 2×4, Acton says. “When it’s in a fire, it’ll burn about an inch and a half of the wood, and then it can’t keep going because of a property called char. That’s why after a forest fire you see all of these trees standing.”