The B.C. government is putting $4.2 million into a dozen mass timber research and demonstration projects to advance the technology and its use with steel and concrete for hybrid buildings.
Projects include a new fire station in Saanich, which gets $500,000 to help create a “post-disaster” building to function after an earthquake or other emergency, and $137,000 toward a four-storey mixed-use commercial and industrial building in Kelowna to demonstrate the feasibility of using local trades for advanced wood construction technology.
Other projects funded include a 21-storey rental building in Vancouver using mass timber along with steel and concrete, a six-storey headquarters for the First Nations Health Authority in North Vancouver, and a 10-storey office building in Vancouver’s False Creek Flats with a honeycomb exterior to demonstrate its perimeter-braced seismic system.
DIALOG architect drawing of 10-storey Vancouver office building with perimeter bracing structure pic.twitter.com/oGNZ7i72yq
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) April 7, 2021
“Mass timber is good for forestry-dependent communities, workers and the environment because it adds value rather than just volume,” Premier John Horgan said when the project was announced April 7. “That’s why growing the sector is key to building a strong and sustainable economic recovery that reaches everyone.”
The federal and provincial governments have been promoting mass timber construction in Asia for many years, promoting its earthquake resistance, low carbon footprint compared to concrete and the ability to pre-fabricate components and assemble them rapidly on site. A key focus is fire resistance, and one of the research projects is mass timber demonstration fire tests. B.C. is contributing $300,000 to the project with Natural Resources Canada and other provincial governments, through the Canada Wood Council.
Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said using the technology for an emergency building is a step forward for a construction technique that in its early days was not supported by firefighters. Other research is to show cost advantages and deal with building codes.
“If you look at the four research projects that we’re funding, obviously the fire safety piece is one where we want to continue to educate the public that this is actually safe,” Kahlon said.
The demonstration projects are selected to advance the glue-laminated and cross-laminated technology that was first developed by Structurlam in the Okanagan, and has spread around the world. The 21-storey tower in Vancouver, being developed by international high-rise developer Westbank, “puts us right back as a leader in the world again” for tall wood construction, Kahlon said.
The mass timber demonstration program is run by Forest Innovation Investment, an industry-government partnership to develop forest industry technology. It is based at the University of B.C., where the 18-storey Brock Commons student residence was one of the pioneers of tall wood construction.