Hybrid Construction

  • Earth Sciences Building, University of British Columbia, Stephanie Tracey, UBC, BC, Hybrid Construction, Wood-Concrete-Steel, Construction, Wood Buildings
    Earth Sciences Building, UBC, Vancouver, B.C.
    Photo: Stephanie Tracey
    Earth Sciences Building, University of British Columbia, Stephanie Tracey, UBC, BC, Hybrid Construction, Wood-Concrete-Steel, Construction, Wood Buildings
    Earth Sciences Building, University of British Columbia.
    Photo: Stephanie Tracey

Using the combination of wood, concrete and steel provides a cost-effective and sustainable solution to building structures as well as options to improve building performance and design. Hybrid construction is the combination of different materials or techniques to design a range of building types.

By utilizing the strength and unique properties of different materials, architects and specifiers have an opportunity to construct taller and larger buildings. Often, a hybrid system will require prefabricated elements to be manufactured off site. Prefabrication speeds up construction and allows for easy installation as the system arrives on site when needed during the construction phase.

There are a variety of benefits related to using wood in wood-concrete-steel hybrid systems, including:

  • A lighter building for poor soil condition sites
  • Reduced environmental impact with carbon storage 
  • Opportunity to expose wood products as a design solution
  • Prefabricated elements reduce costs and speed up construction
  • Using wood products is a sustainable and renewable choice
  • Ability to span long distances
  • High strength-to-weight ratio

Of all the major structural building systems, wood delivers the most strength for its weight. This means that wood structures are relatively light-weight, resulting in smaller foundation requirements or for the same foundation, more storeys can be constructed without exceeding foundation capacity. Wood construction has long played a leading role in providing safe and comfortable housing in North America. This building technology is supported by a huge body of research, code development and practical experience that has affirmed the reliability and durability of wood construction for all types of climates and building performance expectations. 

Recent research reports indicate that hybrid systems can be designed for taller wood buildings. The SOM Timber Tower Research Report recommends a Concrete Jointed Timber Frame building system, which consists of mass timber products for the main structural elements, with supplementary reinforced concrete at the connecting joints to achieve a 40-storey wood building. Another research example is The Case for Tall Wood Buildings Report, which presents hybrid building system options with mass timber products such as cross laminated timber and glulam with a concrete podium base, designed to reach 30-storeys in height.