Tools of the trade
April 17, 2023

Over 10 tools and resources to make your next mass timber project a success

Are you looking to boost your knowledge when it comes to mass timber construction and design? Check out these thirteen tools and resources—from online calculators and software to the latest guides and research—to help you confidently tackle your next mass timber project.


Wood book cases, desktops, staircase and hybrid ceiling construction feature prominently in this interior view of the Belmont Secondary School library.

Belmont Secondary | Photo credit: Barry Calhoun

Quickly jump to the tool you’re most interested in:

  1. Mass timber Navigator for life cycle assessment
  2. timberX: a comparative tool for steel, concrete and timber
  3. Building information modelling (BIM) for wood buildings: An introductory guide & REVIT details
  4. National guidelines for whole-building life cycle assessment
  5. Carbon Calculator by Canadian Wood Council 
  6. Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings
  7. Embodied Carbon PathFinder
  8. NLT design + construction guide
  9. Canadian CLT handbook, second edition
  10. Technical guide for the design and construction of tall wood buildings
  11. Modelling guide for timber structure
  12. Design guide for timber-concrete composite floors in Canada
  13. Best practices guide for controlling wood floor vibrations
  14. B.C. Supplier Directory


Tools to help you test and trial different timber design options

Mass timber products, combined with a growing number of hybrid structural solutions, are opening up new possibilities for design teams. As the choices increase, so too does the need to narrow down to the one best suited for your project. To help you, check out some of our latest tools, released April 2023, that can assist in the conceptual testing, analysis and trialling of different options.

1. Mass Timber Navigator: understanding energy and code considerations

Launched February 2023.

Test design variables and pre-calculated energy consumption results for eight typical mass timber building types. 

Quantify and evaluate construction costs, code compliance and energy performance on your next mass timber project with the Mass Timber Navigator tool. It includes comparisons of eight typical mass timber buildings ranging from 3- to 12-storey residential, office, civic and industrial project types situated in four B.C. regions: Vancouver, Kamloops, Prince George and Fort St John. 

You can change various design specifications on each building type and compare performance metrics. It can also help inform order of magnitude (or class D) proforma estimates.

Mass Timber Navigator

2. timberX: a comparative tool for steel, concrete and timber

Launched February 2023.

Evaluate the benefits of mass timber compared to steel and concrete early in the design process.  

Created for developers, architects and engineers in the early stages of a building project, timberX, evaluates four key considerations: weight, depth,  approximate cost and embodied energy of different building systems. Its easy-to-use interface includes comparative data at a glance along with visual aids to illustrate the pros and cons of each option. 

timberX app

3. Building Information Modelling (BIM) for Wood Buildings: An Introductory Guide & REVIT Details

Gain a solid grasp of BIM fundamentals and how BIM can help streamline wood design construction. 

BIM for Wood Buildings: An Introductory Guide, developed by Scius Advisory and BIMOne, is a good starting point for design teams interested in using advanced technologies like BIM to realize the benefits of digital fabrication and off-site construction, specific to timber construction.  

The guide includes an overview of how to set up a BIM project to support the design of advanced wood buildings. Along with practical advice, it includes four case studies complete with 3D Revit details to demonstrate how parametric information modelling can inform design analysis, cost estimating, schedule planning and construction sequencing. 

Building Information Modelling (BIM) for Wood Buildings: An Introductory Guide
Carbon Crunch

Calculating the environmental impact of timber buildings

Curbing the impacts of carbon emissions is an important benefit of building with wood. And in some cases, you may want to quantify that positive contribution with these carbon tools. Check out these tools to help you crunch the numbers when it comes to the carbon savings mass timber can provide.

4. National guidelines for whole-building life cycle assessment

Understand whole building life cycle assessment (wbLCA) industry standards and best practices and how they can inform construction planning, policy and/or software.

wbLCA is widely considered the best method for examining the embodied carbon of buildings because it considers the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with material production, transportation, construction, use, and eventual disposal. To improve the quality and consistency of wbLCA as applied to buildings and assist in interpreting relevant international standards, Natural Research Council Canada, in collaboration with the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, has produced the National Guidelines for Whole-building Life Cycle Assessment. It’s a great place to start if you want to understand the calculation of reliable life-cycle benchmarks better, establish policies based on wbLCA or develop software focused on automating wbLCA analysis.

National Guidelines for Whole-Building Life Cycle Assessment

5. Carbon Calculator by Canadian Wood Council

A quick way to calculate the carbon benefit of your next wood project. 

If you’re looking for a relatively simple way to estimate the impact of wood products used in a particular building—along with the associated carbon benefits—look no further than the Carbon Calculator by Canadian Wood Council. After inputting wood volumes, the tool estimates how much time it takes Canadian and U.S. forests to grow that volume of wood along with the associated carbon benefits.

The Canadian Wood Council Carbon Calculator includes easy-to-follow instructions on each input tab of the tool. After completing each section, the tool calculates the estimated carbon benefits of your building project. 

CWC Carbon Calculator

6. Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings

An in-depth software application that can calculate the environmental impact of over 1,200 structural and envelope assembly combinations. 

The Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings has been helping building professionals simplify the complex life-cycle assessment (LCA) methodology that goes into crunching the real numbers on embodied carbon and other environmental impacts for two decades. Results are instantly displayed for embodied fossil energy use, as well as global warming, acidification, eutrophication and smog potential.

The Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings can make multiple comparisons at once. Design teams can change and substitute materials for helpful side-by-side comparisons. The software can quickly generate reports, graphs, tables, summary measures and bills of materials with just a few clicks. 


7. Embodied Carbon PathFinder

Understand the impacts of embodied carbon and make better-informed decisions when tackling multi-family projects. 

If you’re looking to learn more about the impacts your residential design choices can have on embodied carbon, check out the Embodied Carbon PathFinder. The tool provides a visual graphic along with table data to illustrate the global warming potential (GWP) of various design options for stacked townhouses, mid-rise and high-rise wood construction. It is a companion tool to the Operational Energy PathFinder which analyzes the design variables that affect energy use and greenhouse gas emissions due to building operations.



Go-to guides for building with mass timber

Over the past few years, the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and nail-laminated timber (NLT) has quickly grown and been used in a wide variety of building types, here in B.C. and around the world. At the same time, mass timber buildings are getting ever taller and design teams are looking to use more sophisticated modelling in the planning of such buildings. With mass timber’s rise in popularity, there are a growing number of comprehensive best-practice handbooks developed by a consortium of experts. 

8. NLT Design + Construction Guide (2017)

Everything you need to know about NLT construction and design. 

The NLT Design + Construction Guide is one of the only comprehensive NLT resources available that combines design, construction and fabrication best practices illustrated using real-world case studies. Consistent with current Canadian codes and standards, the guide focuses on considerations for NLT floor and roof systems. While NLT has been used for more than a century, it is once again growing in popularity—and modernized through prefabrication techniques—for its cost-effective aesthetically pleasing benefits.

There’s also a U.S. version for design teams working in the United States and a second Canadian edition is slated for publication in 2024.

NLT Guide

9. Canadian CLT Handbook, Second Edition (2019)

Get the latest best practices for CLT construction with this second edition updated handbook. 

CLT has been used in many projects in B.C. and the province is home to a growing number of CLT suppliers whose products are being used across North America.  

The updated 2019 Canadian CLT Handbook has quickly become the essential how-to resource for Canadian building professionals interested in construction and design using CLT. This latest edition covers updated regulations, new research and how to comply with the CSA Standard in Engineering Design in Wood. A newly added chapter includes a state-of-the-art design prototype of an eight-storey mass timber building. 

FPInnovations CLT Handbook

10. Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Tall Wood Buildings (2022)

Get the most up-to-date best practices when it comes to tall wood construction and design. 

Looking to take your wood buildings to new heights? Then be sure to download the latest edition of FPInnovations’ Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Tall Wood Buildings in Canada. The updated 2022 edition includes learnings and insights gained from recently built tall wood projects. Using this guide, design teams can learn how to achieve the best environmental, structural, fire and durability performance using mass timber products and systems. 

Given the rapid growth of mass timber construction in recent years, the 2022 edition will help design teams get up to speed on the latest code changes, product advancements and best practices relevant to tall wood construction. 


Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Tall Wood Buildings in Canada

11. Modelling Guide for Timber Structures (2022)

Understand how to use modelling to test and troubleshoot timber structures when it comes to high winds, earthquakes and more.   

Taller wood buildings are on the rise as developers, designers, cities and organizations look for high-density, low-carbon building solutions that can help combat climate change. With this increased interest comes the need to better understand the performance and benefits of taller wood buildings using advanced computer modelling. The first edition of the Modelling Guide for Timber Structures is intended to do just that—covering key modelling principles, modelling methods tailored to timber structures, special considerations for high winds, earthquakes and more. 

Along with helping engineers and other building professionals apply computer modelling to timber structures, the guide can assist software developers looking to upgrade programs to include the latest timber technologies and structures.  

Modelling Guide for Timber Structures

12. Design Guide for Timber-Concrete Composite Floors in Canada (2020)

Get in-depth know-how on this innovative approach that can boost the performance of timber floors. 

As the popularity of mass timber construction and design continues to grow, so too is the interest in hybrid solutions that can further boost a building’s performance—such as timber-concrete composite floors.  

Timber-concrete systems consist of two distinct layers, a timber layer and a concrete layer (on top), joined together by shear connectors. The Design Guide for Timber-Concrete Composite Floors in Canada delves into both the benefits and technical considerations for this building system.

It includes numerous illustrations and formulas to demonstrate timber-concrete composite floor construction best practices as it relates to shear connection systems, ultimate limit state design, vibration and fire resistance of floors. 

Design Guide for Timber-Concrete Composite Floors in Canada (2020)

13. Best Practices Guide for Controlling Wood Floor Vibration

Get an overview of the causes and effects of floor vibrations and design strategies and methods for controlling and reducing vibrations due to walking.

FPInnovations has released this best practices guide after over 50 years of research and is a must-read guide for designers, buildings and manufacturers interested in controlling and reducing floor vibrations. The guide covers fundamental principles, design methods and strategies for addressing this common issue.

The Best Practices Guide for Controlling Wood Floor Vibration is especially relevant for those who work with light-frame wood and mass timber floors in North America, but broader audiences can apply the information and methods.

Cover page of a guide with the title Best Practices Guide for Controlling Wood Floor Vibration, featuring an image of children

14. Source wood products for your next project with the B.C. Supplier Directory

Ready to build your next project with wood and looking for suppliers? The B.C. Wood Supplier Directory connects you with over 350 suppliers of high-quality, eco-friendly wood products, from dimension lumber, engineered, mass timber and specialty products to furniture, doors and windows. Start your search today. 

CLT panel walls in place during construction of wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm Elementary School Seismic Replacement. Credit: Bright Photography, courtesy