Robert Jackson, 27, of Vancouver, Canada, has been a Graduate Member of the Institution for a little over a year. On 8 June he was presented with our Young Structural Engineering Professional of the Year Award. Here Robert discusses his career and his winning project.

All throughout my school years, and after graduating high school, I loved carpentry - fine woodworking and furniture making in particular. Being able to take that passion for woodworking and mesh it with math and science was the real reason why I decided to become a structural engineer. The opportunity for creativity in this career is something I really enjoy.  

I completed my Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering at the University of British Columbia in 2013. After graduating I was hired by Fast+Epp, where I have been establishing my role as a well-rounded engineer, with a particular interest in timber construction. 

I entered the Young Professional Award after seeing the ad in The Structural Engineer. I’m overjoyed to have been selected winner, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be recognised at an international level. I do believe that it is a testament to the wonderful experience and mentorship that I have received at Fast + Epp over the last few years. 

This year entrants were required to submit three projects we’d worked on. The key project in my submission was Brock Commons Student Residence, a $51M, 18 storey mass timber hybrid structure, currently under construction at the University of British Columbia. When completed in 2017 it will be the tallest mass timber hybrid building in the world. 

(Render of the Student Residence, image credit UBC and Acton Ostry Architects)

“Mass timber” is a type of construction that uses large timber elements, such as glulam or cross laminated timber panels, which are often made of smaller pieces of timber glued together. Mass timber projects are often prefabricated, shipped to site precisely machined, and fitted together as a kit. 

The key goals of the project were to create a safe, functional, sustainable, and cost-effective residence for UBC students. Delivering a mass timber building at a comparable cost to a traditional concrete structure was an important objective – high rise timber construction has been generating a lot of excitement around the world in the last few years, mainly due to the material's sustainable properties.   

One of the many unique aspects of the design is the concept of point supported, Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels. By using CLT to span in both directions, we were able to eliminate beams, significantly reducing the overall structural depth and creating a clean, flat, point-supported surface – a great example of how good engineering can influence the methodology of construction.

(The Residence under construction,image credit Seagate Consulting)

Currently, the concrete cores are fully erected and timber construction is beginning, with the superstructure scheduled to be up by later this summer. The project will be fully completed in 2017. It’s our hope that the Student Residence will help propel the use of timber in the construction of taller buildings, showcasing timber’s aesthetic value, design flexibility, embodied energy, and carbon storing abilities. Every material has its place, but the best science seems to suggest that timber is the most sustainable of our primary materials. 

I’m delighted to have had this project recognised by the Award judges! The whole experience has been quite humbling. I hope to take the Institution's Chartered Membership exam in a few years’ time and continue my involvement with the Institution. 


Virgilio Caraig
i had experience hre as well like that secondary school. The mean member of the building is precise fabricated from the supplier then deliver on site and erected on site, Bolted together on every joint, i would say quick, economical, the only question is the cladding protection and how they will sealed properly the building. Plus I really dont know how long it will last compared to structural steel or concrete design?
23/06/2016 11:53:10

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