Brock Commons Tallwood House is an innovative tall wood hybrid building at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Aside from providing much needed student residence spaces, Brock Commons showcases mass timber as a practical building material in a high-rise application and demonstrates an innovative and sustainable way to improve the performance of buildings.
Construction of Brock Commons demonstrated that its innovative mass timber-hybrid structural system is economically viable, repeatable and adaptable to other building types and uses. Using a crew of nine, the mass timber construction was completed less than 70 days after the prefabricated components arrived on site, approximately two months faster than a typical project of this size.
The building includes 17-storeys of cross laminated timber floors supported on glue laminated timber columns atop a concrete base with two 18-storey concrete containing exit stairs and elevators. The podium level is wrapped with curtain wall glazing and glass spandrel panels. An extensive cross-laminated timber (CLT) canopy runs the length of the building which has a gross area of 15,120 m2/162,750 ft2.
The roof is made of prefabricated sections of steel beams and metal decking, with the roofing membrane pre-applied to achieve quick water tightness during construction. The building envelope is a prefabricated panel system clad with wood fibre high-pressure laminate.
A site specific regulation was developed for Brock Commons by B.C.’s Building and Safety Standards Branch that set the safety standards for the building including enhanced fire and seismic standards that exceed those for a concrete or steel building.
The fire safety design of Brock Commons underwent a peer-review process involving a panel of leading fire safety experts, scientists, authorities having jurisdiction and firefighters. Brock Commons has been designed to meet the one and two hour fire ratings required for this type of building. The CLT and glulam components used in the project have been enhanced through complete encapsulation, with three to four layers of fire-rated Type X gypsum board, dependent on location.
A back-up water supply and emergency power supply is installed so the sprinkler system will function even if the building loses its standard water and electrical supply.
Innovation and advancements in mass timber products and construction systems are enabling developers to build taller and larger with wood. Mass timber products used in the Brock Commons project include CLT and glulam supplied by Structurlam Products, as well as parallel strand lumber (PSL) supplied by Weyerhaeuser.
Wood is a sustainable and versatile building material that stores, rather than emits, carbon dioxide for the life of the structure and beyond when wood fibre is recycled or reclaimed. In addition to wood’s carbon storing properties, wood’s lower energy consumption during manufacturing results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than from the production of other building materials. Mass timber products are versatile and high-performance building materials, especially where environmental objectives are concerned.