Better buildings
March 16, 2021

Mass timber’s mass appeal

A rising number of municipalities, in all corners of the province, are turning to innovative mass timber construction and design. Light and strong, it’s being used in everything from grocery stores and schools to bridges and residential towers—along with many signature public buildings. Learn more about this low carbon building material and get inspired by 12 projects in six regions of British Columbia (B.C.).

A collection of six images combined in a grid to demonstrate various mass timber building examples including a covered walkway, Glue-laminated timber (Glulam), mass timber being manufactured, a completed hotel, and a bridge superstructure

Clockwise: Askew’s Uptown Supermarket, photo credit: Derek Lepper Photography | Earth Sciences Building, UBC, photo credit: KK Law | The Shore, photo credit: Raef Grohne courtesy of Adera | Kingsway Pedestrian Bridge, photo credit: Martin Tessler courtesy of Perkins&Will.

From its climate benefits to its design flexibility, the appeal of mass timber is growing across the province. Take a virtual tour across the province and discover why some believe these homegrown products are the future of sustainable design and construction. 

By the numbers

Mass timber in B.C.

Square metres of CLT per day can be installed when paired with prefabricated construction

B.C. communities have signed on as early adopters of tall wood construction

Storeys of hybrid mass timber anchor Brock Commons Tallwood House

Different types of mass timber products manufactured in B.C.
Wood 101

What is mass timber and how is it made?

We hear about mass timber more and more these days, but what exactly is mass timber and how are these products made?

Mass timber construction, in contrast to light-frame wood construction, is built using a category of engineered wood products. These products are typically made of large, solid wood panels, columns or beams—often manufactured off-site—and are used for load-bearing wall, floor, and roof construction. Mass timber products are thick, compressed layers of wood, creating strong, structural load-bearing elements that can be constructed into panelized components. Mass timber products are engineered for high strength ratings like concrete and steel but are significantly lighter in weight. They are typically formed through lamination, fasteners, or adhesives. Mass timber can complement light-frame and hybrid options and is an environmentally friendly substitute for carbon-intensive materials and building systems.

Manufacturing of laminated veneer lumber (LVL), one of seven different mass timber products made in B.C. | Photo credit: Brudder Productions


Close up view of laminated veneer lumber (LVL), one of several different mass timber products made in BC, while being manufactured

Examples of mass timber products

A wide range of mass timber products are manufactured right here in B.C. You can explore these mass timber products in more depth on our products pages.

3D rendering of Cross-laminated timber (CLT), an engineered wood product consisting of layers of kiln-dried dimension lumber
What is cross-laminated timber?

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is an engineered wood product consisting of layers of kiln-dried dimension lumber (usually three, five, seven or nine) oriented at right angles to one another and then glued to form structural panels. By gluing layers of wood at right angles, the panel delivers excellent structural rigidity in both directions. In special cases, double outer laminations may be parallel and not alternating crosswise. CLT fabrication begins with lumber selection, defect removal and cutting, followed by adhesive application, panel lay-up, and assembly pressing. Panels are cut to size, along with the completion of any other prefabrication requirements.

Icon drawing of Nail-laminated timber (NLT), which is made of dimension lumber stacked together on its edge and fastened together with nails
What is nail-laminated timber?

Nail-laminated timber (NLT) is made of dimension lumber stacked together on its edge and fastened together with nails or sometimes screws to form a solid structural element Historically, century-old industrial buildings often used NLT construction to span between solid timber posts and beams to form sturdy solid floorsAs the name suggests, NLT is made by stacking lumber and nailing it together to form panels. This can be done on-site or as prefabricated panels in a factory setting. Made with locally-sourced dimension lumber, the simplicity of NLT makes it relatively easy to assemble.

3D rendering of glue-laminated timber (glulam), a mass timber product composed of wood laminations (or “lams”) bonded together with durable, moisture-resistant adhesives
What is glue-laminated timber?

Glue-laminated timber (glulam) is composed of wood laminations (or “lams”) bonded together with durable, moisture-resistant adhesives. The grain of all laminations runs parallel with the length of the wood member. Glulam is made from a wide variety of species like Douglas-fir, spruce-pine-fir (SPF) and western hemlock. Beams and columns of virtually any size and shape are fabricated by laminating three or more kiln-dried, stress-tested, and finger-jointed lumber together to form continuous laminations. These laminations are pressed together using a mechanized, hydraulic press, bonded with weather-resistant adhesives. Pressure treatment is used for exterior applications. Glulam can be customized as straight, curved, arched, and tapered members.

3D rendering of Dowel-laminated timber (DLT), a mass timber panel product created by stacking dimension lumber together on its edge, fit together with hardwood dowels
What is Dowel-laminated timber (DLT)?

Dowel-laminated timber (DLT) is a mass timber panel product created by stacking dimension lumber together on its edge, fit together with hardwood dowels. DLT is made using graded lumber which is structurally finger jointed, run through a molder—a machine to cut and shape the woodand laminated into large panels of DLT. The product is prefabricated into panels using a high powered hydraulic pressthe hardwood dowels pressed into tight-fit holes of the lamellaslayered panels pressed together—all within a factory-setting. Typically, sheathing is pre-installed, and exposed faces are finished, then ready for delivery to site. DLT is the only all-wood mass timber product with no metal fasteners, nails, or adhesives.

3D rendering of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) - where veneers are bonded together under heat and pressure. LVL is made from rotary-peeled veneers that are bonded together under heat and pressure into large panels that are cut into a range of widths
What is laminated veneer lumber?

Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is part of a family of products, structural composite lumber (SCL), that are made of dried and graded wood veneers, strands or flakes that are layered upon one another and bonded together with a moisture-resistant adhesive into large blocks known as billets. Other products in this group include laminated strand lumber (LSL) and parallel strand lumber (PSL). In the case of LVL, veneers are bonded together under heat and pressure. LVL is made from rotary-peeled veneers that are bonded together under heat and pressure into large panels that are cut into a range of widths. Phenol-formaldehyde resins provide waterproof bonds. A diverse range of species can be used to produce LVL—such as Douglas-fir, larch, pine and spruce—to produce members that are beyond conventional lumber lengths. Typically, LVL veneers are oriented in the same direction.

3D rendering of parallel strand lumber (PSL) - part of a family of products, structural composite lumber (SCL), that are made of dried and graded wood veneers, strands or flakes that are layered upon one another and bonded together with a moisture-resistant adhesive into large blocks known as billets
What is parallel strand lumber?

Parallel strand lumber (PSL) is made of long strands laid lengthwise in parallel. PSL is made from strands bonding in a continuous press using waterproof adhesives with a phenol-formaldehyde base. It can be made using waste materials from plywood and LVL production, with species commonly including Douglas-fir, pine and western hemlock, among others. PSL exhibits a rich texture and retains numerous dark glue lines. PSL can be stained to enhance the warmth and texture of the wood. It is sanded at the end of the production process to ensure precise dimensions and to provide a high-quality surface for appearance.

Examples of mass timber projects

Mass timber is on the rise throughout B.C. Here are some diverse examples of how each of the six regions of B.C. are making innovative use of this homegrown climate-smart building product.

Mass timber on the rise

North east


Prophet River Multiplex

The Prophet River Multiplex, located along the Alaska Highway south of Fort Nelson, is truly a vital community hub for the region providing administrative facilities, council chambers, a health centre, an Elders’ lounge, and a community centre for the Prophet River First Nation.

A fully glazed atrium extends the entire length of the building showcasing the facility’s mass timber structure. The ample glazing fills the interior with abundant natural light during the day and gives the exterior an inviting auburn glow at night.

Photo credit: Martin Knowles

Exterior evening view looking into wide glass expanses of Prophet River Multiplex showing Douglas-fir glue-laminated timber (glulam) post-and-beam system which makes up the primary structure in this large linear lobby

Northern Lights College Energy House

The Energy House at Northern Lights College is a multi-use facility that demonstrates clean energy technology and enlightens students and visitors on the efficiency, effectiveness and beauty of wood products. The facility is the focal point of the school’s Centre of Excellence that provides training in clean energy technology, and it is located in Dawson Creek where the winter months dip to minus 40 degrees celsius making energy efficiency a must. Showcasing the warmth and beauty of exposed glulam post-and-beam construction and Douglas-fir decking, the project contributed to the region’s economy, sourcing workers and products locally.

Photo courtesy of Northern Lights College

Interior daytime view of Northern Lights College Energy House showing Douglas-fir and western red cedar wood used for the tongue-and-groove ceiling millwork, wood-finished walls and glue-laminated timber (glulam) cabinetry and counters
Mass timber on the rise

North Coast & Nechako

North Coast & Nechako

Upper Skeena Recreation Centre

When its 44-year-old ice arena was condemned due to safety concerns, the construction of the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre, built of mass timber and wood-frame construction, delivered efficiency, innovation, and hope to this remote northern region. Drawing on local expertise and materials, the highly collaborative project brought this small close-knit community closer together—while providing jobs and a boost to the local economy. Choosing wood meant construction could continue through the cold winter months, unlike steel welding—a method hampered in below-freezing temperatures. This all-wood solution delivers structural performance and ease of installation, with the added benefits of aesthetic warmth, natural insulation, carbon sequestration, and locally sourced materials and labour. 

Photo credit: Ema Peter Photography courtesy of Hemsworth Architecture

Glue laminated timber beams and columns support the roof in this interior view of the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre during a hockey game

Nadleh Whut’enne Yah Administration and Cultural Building

The Nadleh Whut’enne Yah Administration and Cultural Building is a critical community hub for the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, whose territory is near the base of Mount Fraser, in the geographic centre of B.C. Along with hosting council meetings, it serves as a health centre, offices, community kitchen, learning centre, gymnasium, outdoor amphitheatre, and cultural and historical display. Central to its design is the two circular structures that serve as the lobby and council chambers—dramatic rooms with vaulted glulam beam roofs that are clad in western red cedar.

Photo credit: Martin Knowles courtesy of Evans Architecture | Joe Y. Wai


Exterior early evening view of low rise Nadleh Whutenne Yah Administration and Cultural Building showing full building expanse including post and beam columns, wooden cross members, and hybrid construction elements
Mass timber on the rise


Caribou Region

Wood Innovation and Design Centre

Featuring everything from CLT and glulam to LVL and PSL, the Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC)—built using local B.C.-based products and expertise—shows what’s possible using mass timber construction and tall wood design. As a demonstration project, WIDC not only showcases a wide range of locally sourced products and species but serves as a repeatable and expandable template for constructing future tall wood buildings of different sizes and functions. The building features five home-grown sustainably-sourced wood species—including Douglas-fir, western red cedar, hemlock, pine and spruce—and were all sustainably harvested from B..C forests. Traditional wood products like dimension lumber and stained-red plywood panels were also used in various unique ways.

Photo credit: Ema Peter Photography courtesy of MGA | Michael Green Architecture

Yunesit’in Health Centre

Located near Hanceville, the Yunesit’in Health Centre, with its striking design, was developed by the Yunesit’in people of British Columbia’s Cariboo Chilcotin region. The facility’s architecture is a contemporary expression of the traditional Yunesit’in house, embodying both the material qualities of the original buildings and the environmental values of the Yunesit’in people. Along with the use of mass timber—vertical glulam posts punctuating its design—the building features traditional light-frame construction using locally-sourced B.C. lumber and wood products. The result is a building as beautiful as it is practical.

Photo credit: Martin Knowles courtesy of David Nairne + Associates 

Exterior evening view of low rise Yunesit
Mass timber on the rise

Thompson Okanagan

Thompson Okanagan

The West Wing, Penticton Lakeside Resort and Conference Centre

Situated on the south end of Okanagan Lake, an area popular with tourists and locals alike for its recreational activities, wineries, and fruit orchards; The West Wing, Penticton Lakeside Resort and Conference Centre is a six-storey, 70-unit hotel sets a new standard for the use of mass timber in commercial and hospitality projects. Giving visitors a truly made-in-B.C. experience, the hotel features an exposed timber structure—made of a Douglas-fir glulam post-and-beam frame with CLT floors, roof, shear walls, stairwells and stairs—envelops visitors with a sense of warmth and modern rusticity. Glulam was also used to build a dramatic nine-metre-high wall using a double lattice of beams to frame the windows.

Photo courtesy of Structurlam and HDR Architects

Mass timber constriction, post & beam, CLT (cross-laminated timber) & prefabrication are prominently featured in this nighttime exterior view of the Penticton Lakeside Resort West Wing mid rise

Okanagan College Jim Pattison Centre Of Excellence

Featuring an abundance of locally sourced wood, the Okanagan College Jim Pattison Centre Of Excellence is a net-zero centre for sustainable building technologies and renewable energy conservation is a lesson itself in how to reduce our environmental impact using renewable materials and advanced construction techniques. Designed to be as much a lesson in itself as it is a place to learn, the building demonstrates to students firsthand made-in-B.C. sustainable mass timber building products and innovations. All structural wood used in the centre comes from local forests, including pine from Interior forests that have been impacted by the mountain pine beetle outbreak. The building is primarily a glulam post and beam structure, but also features a number of innovative components including timber-concrete composite wall panels with integrated heating and cooling pipes and steel-timber hybrid trusses.

Photo courtesy of CEI Architecture

Exterior evening image of Okanagan College Centre Of Excellence showing glue-laminated timber (glulam) beams which support main atrium as a part of this net-zero centre for sustainable building technologies and renewable energy conservation
Mass timber on the rise



Elkford Community Conference Centre

The Elkford Community Conference Centre is a cultural hub for the 3,000 residents of Elkford hosting an early childhood play school, recreational programs, conferences and community events. The facility showcases made-in-B.C. innovative wood construction including CLT shear wall panels, as high as 7.2 metres—the first time they had been used in a commercial application in North America. Glulam and LVL beams are supported on the CLT walls or perimeter columns. Structural insulated panels (SIP) used on the roof and walls give a substantial boost to the facility’s energy efficiency.

Photo credit: Henry Georgi 



Interior daytime view of Elkford Community Conference Centre showing hallway and people standing below warm structural elements of glue-laminated timber (Glulam) and Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) beams, along with cross-laminated timber (CLT)

Radium Hot Springs Community Hall and Library

Nestled in a forested valley next to the Kootenay National Park, the Radium Hot Springs Community Hall and Library offers a vibrant central hub and point of pride for the Village of Radium Hot Springs. Showcasing wood construction completed by local workers, the community hall is one of the first public buildings in British Columbia to be built using dowel laminated timber (DLT). The resulting building is a centrepiece to the village and has helped revitalize community programming and events.

Photo credit: Dave Best courtesy of Urban Arts Architecture

Interior ceiling view of Radium Hot Springs Community Hall showing mass timber construction including dowel-laminated timber (DLT) exposed roof members and glue-laminated timber (Glulam) timbers
Mass timber on the rise

Vancouver Island-Coast

Vancouver Island

Nanaimo regional General Hospital

Throughout B.C., there is an increasing use of wood in healthcare facilities. One example is the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital featuring a signature canopy design supported by diagonal Douglas-fir glulam struts that spring from asymmetrical concrete bases. The struts support horizontal Douglas-fir glulam beams, and a secondary structure of solid Douglas-fir purlins and decking. Exterior seating benches in the area of the entrance are also made from reclaimed Douglas-fir. The use of made-in-B.C. wood products reflects the region’s longstanding connection to nature and a sustainable forest sector.

Photo credit: Artez Photography courtesy of Stantec

Douglas-fir glulam struts support the glulam and heavy timber canopy in the exterior view of the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital Emergency Department

École Au coeur de l’île

More and more schools in B.C. are built with wood due to their environmental and health benefits while giving a boost to local forest-based economies. École Au coeur de l’île incorporates reclaimed wood into its design, as well as glulam and mass timber panels, topped off with a 3,000-square-metre timber roof. Interior spaces used exposed glulam beams and mass timber panels to form unique reading alcoves and multi-purpose spaces.

Photo credit: Derek Lepper Photography courtesy of McFarland Marceau Architects


Interior daytime image of École Au-cœur-de-l’île school classroom showing warm wooden window bay study cubes made of reclaimed Douglas-fir
Mass timber on the rise

Mainland-South West


Brentwood Town Centre Station

The first in a series of innovative transit station designs to incorporate wood, Brentwood Town Centre Station is an iconic structure on Metro Vancouver’s Millennium Line, with its double-curved futuristic form levitating above Lougheed Highway. Its sleek, canoe-like design foreshadowed the thoroughly modern, state-of-the-art town centre rising above it. Two decades later, the exposed wood shows little to no weathering, a statement on the durability of mass timber construction. More station designs followed this precedent-setting project, incorporating mass timber or other wood products in various architecturally expressive shapes and forms.

Photo credit: Tae Ik Hwang 


Large arching nail laminated timber (NLT) beams supporting a wooden ceiling are prominent features in this interior view of the City of Burnaby

Brock Commons Tallwood House

Towering above The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Point Grey campus, this ground-breaking 18-storey student residence is one of the tallest contemporary mass-timber hybrid structures of its kind in the world. It is also a clear demonstration of the cutting-edge innovation and technology at work in B.C.’s wood products, engineering and architecture sectors. The hybrid steel-concrete and mass timber structure is built of Douglas-fir glulam and PSL columns that directly support 5-ply CLT floor panels.

Brock Commons Tallwood House mass timber structure reached new record-setting heights through the use of advanced prefabricated construction and design. This included virtual design and construction modelling (VDC)—technology used to visualize, analyze and make better, more collaborative decisions at each stage of the project. VDC enabled the team to test and troubleshoot various solutions, output designs directly to the mass-timber manufacturer for precise fabrication and meticulously plan the sequence and assembly of on-site construction.

Extensive attention was given to fire safety. A back-up water supply and emergency power supply ensures the sprinkler system will function even if the building loses its standard water and electrical supply. In a fire, the mass timber will cha on the outside, while retaining strength, slowing combustion and allowing time for occupants to evacuate the building.

Photo credit: KK Law

Tools & resources

Interested in learning more about mass timber design and construction? Take your knowledge to the next level with these useful tools and resources.

Mass timber products infographic showing illustrations of the mass timber products
What is mass timber and engineered wood?

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Infographic showing the performance advantages of wood detailing 4 performance measures.
Mass timber’s performance advantages

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Interior view of BC Passive House Factory showing worker using crane to move mass timber beams
Mass timber in British Columbia

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UBC Bioenergy Research Demonstration Facility
Mass timber: the next chapter in BC’s forest story

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Brock Commons Tallwood House under construction
BIM + Mass Timber: design, manufacturing and assembly

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Interior daytime view looking down from walkway into multi-storey atrium of UBC Forest Sciences Centre with intricate umbrella support trusswork of mass timber and glass roof above
UBC mass timber buildings

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A mass timber product, specifically Cross-laminated timber (CLT), is shown here in close up during manufacture.
Canadian CLT Handbook, 2019 Edition

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Nail Laminated Timber (NLT) and decorative wood trim, as featured in UBC Campus, Orchard Commons bldg.
Nail-laminated Timber Design + Construction Guide

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