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Construction of world’s tallest timber tower continues at UBC


July 19, 2016
by Canadian Architect

Construction Progress - 18 July 2016. Photo courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia

Construction Progress – 18 July 2016. Photo courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia

Construction of UBC Brock Commons, a record-breaking 18-storey mass timber development at the University of British Columbia, is well underway.

Acton Ostry Architects released renderings of the $51.5-million student residence last October. While it was predicted that the mass timber structure would be erected at a rate of one floor per week, construction forecasts have been far outdone. The current rate of construction is one floor every three days, and is only expected to increase.

Construction Progress - 18 July 2016. Photo courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia

Construction Progress – 18 July 2016. Photo courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia

Structurlam Products LP, the provider of the mass timber package for the project, has manufactured the key building components — cross-laminated timber panels (Crosslam CLT) and glue-laminated columns (Glulam). Record-breaking construction is thanks to the fact that Structurlam products are manufactured to 1 mm of accuracy, allowing for expedited construction and quick installation. The lumber for UBC Brock Commons has been sourced exclusively from British Columbia’s second-growth forests through locally-based lumber partners Interfor, Canfor and West Fraser.

July 2015 erection of mass wood structural mockup. Photo courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia

July 2015 erection of mass wood structural mockup. Photo courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia

To comply with university planning requirements, Acton Ostry‘s design reflects the character of international style Modernist buildings on the campus. The base is wrapped with curtain wall glazing, coloured glass spandrel panels and transparent coloured glass. An extensive CLT canopy runs the length of the building. The façade is made up of 22 prefabricated panels with typical panels measuring eight metres in length. There are four distinct L-shaped corner panels with corner-wrapping windows. The prefab panels are made up of steel stud framed sections with pre-installed windows and a high-pressure laminate cladding consisting of 70 per cent wood-based fibres and thermosetting resins. Once placed, the prefab panels create a pattern of blonde wood and charcoal-coloured vertical striations. A single storey of the prefab panels can be installed in less than one day.

July 2015 glulam columns and steel connectors for mockup. Photo courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia

July 2015 glulam columns and steel connectors for mockup. Photo courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia

At completion, the project will provide housing to students at B.C.’s highest-rated university and a top-rated institution worldwide. The project will connect to the university district energy system and has been designed to target LEED Gold. The mass timber structure reduces the volume of concrete that would be typically used by 2,650 cubic meters, which is equivalent to reducing up to 500 tons of CO2 emissions.

The project is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2017.



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  1. […] be erected at a rate of one floor per week, construction forecasts have been far outdone. In July, the rate of construction was one floor every three […]

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