Better buildings
January 15, 2019

The benefits of using wood in schools

Westview elementary KMBR architects EdWhite Photographics

Westview Elementary School | KMBR Architects Planners Inc. | Photo credit: Ed White Photographics

The use of wood in schools across British Columbia as a primary building material is increasing as communities, builders and government across the province recognize its value from traditional dimensional lumber framing to innovative mass timber systems.

Wood buildings are safe and resilient, meeting or exceeding the most demanding seismic, fire and wind requirements. School districts can also demonstrate a commitment to climate action and the environmental future of their students by choosing wood, a renewable product that stores carbon.

An increasing body of evidence further recognizes that the design of indoor environments is critical to human health and that building with wood can contribute to our sense of well-being. Studies have found that wood interiors reduce stress, and that it provides productive and high-quality learning spaces for students and teachers.

I think you definitely feel better once you’ve been in a space that incorporates wood. It clears your head. We often have students that just come to the rotunda to be there, enjoy the space, and hang out. It’s open and the wood beams are beautiful and inviting. I think it helps with anxiety.

– Rob Comeau, Principal, Abbotsford Senior Secondary School

With carbon neutral government commitments, the use of wood will continue to be showcased within upcoming schools in the province.

Internal view of UBC Earth Sciences Building atrium demonstrating multi-storey timber construction techniques for higher-density urban environments
Design options for three-and four-storey wood school buildings in B.C.

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Glue laminated timber beams and columns support the cantilever roof overhang in this exterior view of Gibsons Elementary School as children enter on a sunny day
Risk analysis and alternative solutions for three- and four-storey wood schools


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Glue-laminated timber (Glulam), Laminated veneer lumber (LVL), and Plywood prominently featured in this interior view of Wellington Secondary School
Cost comparison report: Four-storey wood school design in British Columbia

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Cover page of factsheet displaying a render image of a three-storey building, sunny sky and plenty of people enjoying the common areas and patios.
Wood use in British Columbia schools

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Internal daytime view of low rise Wellington Secondary School showing central circular open air atrium and Glue-laminated timber (Glulam) 'spokes' radiating outward
Seismic design with wood: Solutions for British Columbia schools

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Glue-laminated timber (Glulam), paneling, plywood, and solid-sawn heavy timbers were combined to create the concentric circles shown in this upward interior image of the Abbotsford Senior Secondary School ceiling
Abbotsford Senior Secondary School

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Interior view of Samuel Brighouse Elementary showing student and demonstrating mass timber products, and hybrid timber systems construction
Samuel Brighouse Elementary School

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