WoodWorks! case study explores record-breaking Brock Commons

The Canada Wood Council’s WoodWorks! program recently published an in-depth case study analyzing the design and construction process for the University of British Columbia’s record-breaking Brock Commons, which became the world’s tallest hybrid wood building upon completion last year. The following is an excerpt of the report:

Brock Commons, Acton Ostry, WoodWorks!
Entrance to Brock Commons. Photo by Michael Elkan.

The design development process began in earnest in January 2015 and was completed in October 2015. UBC PT and Acton Ostry Architects Inc. approached the design from a collaborative integrated design standpoint. UBC PT clearly stipulated in the Expression of Interest issued for design services that using known design solutions would be preferred and minimize the need for testing of assemblies. With an effective use of trades expertise, in combination with a strategic use of prefabricated elements and carefully controlled risk, they felt they would arrive at the realization of a successful tall wood project – and they were right.

A three-day integrated design workshop held in January 2015 significantly advanced the design process. Its key focus was to facilitate a determination of the structural approach in terms of costs, constructability and impacts on the building’s engineering systems.

The design workshop was attended by the core project team members, including the architect; structural, mechanical and electrical engineers; the fire protection engineer; the virtual modeller; and the key design advisors and assistants, including the construction manager. In addition, some design-assist from trades and contractors provided real-time feedback on the evolving structural design and informed the team on constructability, trade safety, cost estimates and scheduling projections. An experienced tall wood architectural firm from Austria also advised the group.

During the workshop, the project schedule was reviewed, targeting a summer construction schedule for the mass-timber elements. The objectives of keeping it simple and economical were presented to the team; preliminary planning studies were presented and scrutinized, and the consulting tall wood advisors shared important historical information from lessons learned in Europe with respect to prefabrication, constructability and the speed of erection for mass timber structures.

The engineers presented 64 potential structural approaches and eight schematic options, which were evaluated with an eye to cost factors per material type, labour requirements for fabrication and installation, single span vs. multi-span orientations, and the integration of services. Once consultations were concluded, the preferred option was for the use of GLT and PSL columns, and a longitudinal two-way CLT flatplate system, which eliminated the need for beams in the mass timber super-structure.

You can find the full Canada Wood Council report via WoodWorks!, linked here.