Better buildings
October 26, 2022

Tutoring with timber: Using wood in schools

How does school design influence the process of teaching and learning? Understanding current educational design trends and methodologies is key to designing healthy spaces for students to develop their social and academic capacities.

Gibsons 280 1

Gibsons Elementary School, Sunshine Coast | Photo credit: Ed White Photographics

By Camila Prieto, ArchDaily

The architecture industry seems to constantly be on the lookout for new materials and methodologies that better incorporate sustainability. One material which has stood the test of time, while also finding space for innovation, is wood. In this context, British Columbia (B.C.) stands out as one of the world’s largest exporters of wood products, and has successfully applied a number of strategies to maximize its use in sustainable design. One notable example, which will be explored in this article, is the use of wood in schools.

Why use wood in schools?

Choosing wood as the main material for school design allows the creation of optimal learning and healthy environments for students, teachers and staff. Besides being sustainable, renewable and supporting local economies and communities, this material is strong, durable and easy to modify or renovate. B.C. is pushing the boundaries of wood design and construction, offering schools access to leading-edge technologies.

Wood Use in BC Schools, by architects thinkspace and engineers Fast + Epp, is intended as a useful guide for individuals or organizations who are curious about the use of wood in schools, which has grown significantly in recent years. The introduction of wooden elements of varying sizes and scopes came largely due to the advances in technology and acceptance among the design community and building officials.

Belmont Secondary School, Langford | Photo credit: Barry Calhoun

belmont secondary high school 01 think space courtesy naturallywood

The first three-storey hybrid mass timber elementary school in B.C.

Ta’Talu Elementary School in Surrey, which will be completed in the spring of 2024, will be the first three-story, hybrid mass timber elementary school building in B.C. In addition to the added aesthetics, biophilic elements and enhanced learning properties of wood construction, hybrid mass timber was chosen as the main structural element to follow the school’s sustainability objective of reducing carbon emissions.

Ta’Talu Elementary School, Surrey | Rendering courtesy of thinkspace

TaTalu building exterior rendering