TallWood House at Brock Commons

Structural Designer

Fast + Epp

Client Name

UBC Properties Trust

Location

Vancouver, Canada

PRINCIPAL CONTRACTOR: Urban One Builders   

ARCHITECT: Acton Ostry Architects

INFRASTRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT: University of British Columbia          

TALL WOOD ADVISORS: Architekten Hermann Kaufmann           

WOOD STRUCTURE ERECTION: Seagate Structures      

TIMBER SUPPLIER: Structurlam Products  

FIRE SCIENCE AND BUILDING CODE: GHL Consultants Ltd.      

VIRTUAL DESIGN MODELLING: CadMakers Inc.

Images: © Naturally Wood, Seagate Structures

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The TallWood House at Brock Commons is an 18-storey mass timber hybrid building at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. Reaching 53m, this student residence building has been recognized as the tallest mass timber hybrid building in the world. It is comprised of 17 storeys of five-ply cross laminated timber (CLT) floor panels, glue laminated timber columns, and a concrete transfer slab at level two. Two full height concrete cores provide the lateral stability.

Judge's comment:

TallWood House resists lateral wind and earthquake loading through stiff concrete lift shafts, but the rest of the structure is made of wood. An extraordinary aspect of this building is that it cost no more than a traditional steel or concrete building would have cost, and yet it benefits from the sustainability credentials which the use of timber offers.

There are no beams holding up the timber floors. Instead, the floors are made of cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is simply thick plywood with great strength in both directions. Supporting these timber plates directly on timber columns sounds easy, but a custom-made CLT had to be used in order to avoid local failure of the timber at the column joints, where stresses are very high. This innovation ensured that the floors required no beams, that they could be slender, and that they could be supported easily on timber columns using a novel jointing system. In combination, this saved money and speeded up construction.

The building’s green credentials have been recognised by the US Green Building Council, and at £1500 per square metre this building offers outstanding value. When taken together, this tall timber building represents an extraordinary achievement in structural engineering.