Wood As Mainstream Building Material

In the world of residential construction wood has long been a primary building material. Innovators in Canada and the US are now making this true in North America for commercial and institutional buildings. 

Angelique Pilon and Pénélope Martyn, from UBC, are two of these innovators, and they made a well attended presentation this week at the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Conference here in Ottawa. 

I’ve been very interested  in this trend and have blogged it extensively here, and one of the key innovations that has made this possible is mass timber, a family of built up wood products that are becoming increasingly available on the market. 

Advancements in product types have gone hand in hand with advancements in fabrication and computerization of the design process, making mass timber buildings more and more viable. 

One reason that UBC is able to be an innovator in this field is that they can commission, own and operate their own buildings. They also view wood construction as character making for their campus, they require LEED Gold for campus buildings, and they have targeted creation of a net positive campus by 2025. Their definition of what is a ‘net positive’ campus is quite interesting and worth checking out.

Angelique and Penelope showed some of UBC’s recent mass timber buildings as case studies. A couple of the campus’s indegenous centres are stunning examples of this construction type.

One of the key issues around this building type is forestry management, of course. The speakers indicated that while Canada is a leader in this field, there is work yet to do.