Better buildings
November 26, 2020

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.

Various mass timber images

Clockwise: Askew’s Uptown Supermarket, photo credit: Derek Lepper Photography | Earth Sciences Building, UBC | glulam beam | CLT production | The Shores, photo credit: Raef Grohne courtesy Adera | Kingsway Pedestrian Bridge, photo credit: Martin Tessler courtesy Perkins and Will.

From its climate benefits to its design flexibility, the appeal of mass timber is growing across the province. Since 2007, more than 370 buildings in the province feature made-in-BC mass timber, creating jobs and giving a boost to local economies. 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 BC

Buildings constructed in BC featuring mass timber

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

BC communities have signed on as early adopters of tall wood construction

Storeys of hybrid mass timber systems anchor Brock Commons Tallwood House
Video
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.

Left: Manufacturing of laminated veneer lumber (LVL), one of seven different mass timber products made in BC 

 

Examples of mass timber products

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

CLT
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. Learn more about CLT on our products pages.

NLT
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. Learn more about NLT on our products pages.

GLULAM
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. Learn more about glulam on our products pages.

DLT
What is Dowel-laminated timber (DLT)?

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.  Learn more about DLT on our products pages.

LVL
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. Learn more about LVL on our products pages.

PSL
What is parallel strand lumber?

Parallel strand lumber (PSL) part of a family of productsstructural 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 laminated veneer lumber (LVL).In the case of PSL, long strands (longer than those used in LSL) are laid lengthwise in parallel. PSL is made from strands bonding together 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. Learn more about PSL on our products pages.

Examples of mass timber projects

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

Mass timber on the rise

North East

MapNE

Prophet River Multiplex

This multiplex, located along the Alaska Highway south of Fort Nelson, BC, 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. Read the full project profile.

Left: Exterior evening view | David Nairne + Associates Ltd. | Photo credit: Martin Knowles

Northern Lights College’s 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°C 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. Read the full project profile.

Right: Interior view | McFarland Marceau Architects | Photo credit: Northern Lights College

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. Read the full project profile.

Left photo credit: Ema Peter Photography courtesy Hemsworth Architecture

 

“When we looked at the challenges of our scattered community, we realized we had the opportunity to make a once-in-a-lifetime decision, so we chose wood. The beauty and warmth of wood strikes a strong bond between the building and the community, and they will identify with it in a way they could not have with another building material. 

Dr. Peter Newbery, Chair, Heart of the Hazeltons 

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 BC. 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. Read the full project profile.

Below: interior view of council chambers and gathering space | Right: exterior view of facility | photo credits: Martin Knowles courtesy Evans Architecture | Joe Y. Wai

Mass timber on the rise

Cariboo-Chilcotin

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 BC-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 BC forests. Traditional wood products like dimension lumber and stained-red plywood panels were also used in various unique ways. Read the full project profile.

Left: interior view of exposed mass timber structure | below: exterior view at dusk | photo credit: Ema Peter Photography courtesy MGA | Michael Green Architecture

Yunesit’in Health Centre

Located near Hanceville, BC, this 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 BC lumber and wood products. The result is a building as beautiful as it is practical. Read the full project profile.

Right and below: Exterior views at night | photo credit: Martin Knowles courtesy David Nairne + Associates 

“Our community is able to interact with the building as a space that reflects us as people of the earth. While the design is a modern inspiration, the Douglas-fir reflects back our surroundings, our use of the land, and our aesthetic that entangles our roots to the place”.

CHIEF RUSS MYERS, YUNESIT’IN GOVERNMENT (FORMERLY STONE INDIAN BAND)

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; this 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-BC experience, the hotel features an exposed timber structure—made of a Douglas-fir glue-laminated timber (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. Read the full project profile.

Below: Guest rooms feature exposed timber | Left: Exterior evening view | photos courtesy Structurlam and HDR Architects

Okanagan College Jim Pattison Centre Of Excellence

Featuring an abundance of locally sourced wood, this 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-BC 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 glue-laminated timber (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. Read the full project profile.

Right: Exterior view of mass timber roof | photo credit: courtesy CEI Architecture

Mass timber on the rise

Kootenay

Kootenay

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-BC 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. Read the full profile.

Left: Interior view of common area | photo credit: Henry Georgi | Below: Under construction | photo credit: Douglas Sollows Architect Inc.

 

Radium Hot Springs Community Hall and Library

Nestled in a forested valley next to the Kootenay National Park, this 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. Read the full project profile.

Right: Interior view of DLT ceiling and glulam beams | Below: Exterior view | photo credits: Dave Best courtesy Urban Arts Architecture

 

“Our use of wood helps the interior beauty of this unique building really stand out. The project revitalized our community meeting space and turned this community hall into a centrepiece project for the municipality. We’ve had tremendous buy-in from the residents of Radium as well as from our wood suppliers who came together on this”.

ARNE DOHLEN, DIRECTOR OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
VILLAGE OF RADIUM HOT SPRINGS

Mass timber on the rise

Vancouver Island-Coast

Vancouver Island

Nanaimo General Hospital

Throughout BC, there is an increasing use of wood in healthcare facilities. One example is the Nanaimo 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-BC wood products reflects the region’s longstanding connection to nature and a sustainable forest sector. Read the full project profile.

Left: Exterior view of emergency entrance | Below: Structural detail of mass timber canopy | photo credits: Artez Photography courtesy Stantec

© NW Project Profile | Nanaimo Regional General Hospital Emergency Department

École Au coeur de l’île

More and more schools in BC 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 glue-laminated timber (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. Read the full project profile.

Right: Interior view of mass timber alcoves | Below: Interior view of gymnasium | photo credit: Derek Lepper Photography courtesy McFarland Marceau Architects

Mass timber on the rise

Mainland-South West

Mainland

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. Nearly 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. Read the full project profile.

Left: Interior view of station platform | photo credit: Tae Ik Hwang courtesy Fast + Epp and Perkins and Will.  | below: Exterior view from street level | Photo credit: Nic Lehoux courtesy Fast + Epp and Perkins and Will.

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 BC’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’ 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. Read the full project profile.

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 installation at UBC Bioenergy
What is mass timber and engineered wood?

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Prefabricated panels are installed at Brock Commons Tallwood House at UBC in Vancouver
Mass timber performance advantages

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Mass timber in British Columbia

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mass timber video thumb
Mass timber: the next chapter in BC’s forest story

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BIM+mass timber: design, mfg+assembly

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UBC mass timber buildings

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CLT closeup Swanky
Canadian CLT Handbook, 2019 Edition

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OrchardCommonsUBC MichaelElkan 02 13663 1200x800 5b2df79
Nail-laminated Timber Design + Construction Guide

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