BCIT’s 12-storey Tall Timber Student Housing project provides much needed living accommodations for the Institute’s growing student population. Configured as two perpendicular rectangular wings, and to be assembled as a prefabricated and stacked floor-to-floor design, the building features a CLT point-supported structure consisting of mass timber (CLT) floors supported on steel hollow structural section (HSS) columns.
- Providing 470 much needed dormitory units to BCIT’s main Burnaby campus, more than doubling the Institute’s student housing.
- A prefabricated steel-mass timber design cuts embodied carbon while speeding up construction time.
- The project’s building envelope to meet Step 4—the Province’s highest level of the BC Energy Step Code program.
Meeting future housing needs while showcasing local mass timber expertise
In the wake of the region’s affordability challenges and housing shortages, the BCIT Tall Timber Student Housing project brings 470 new dorms to its Burnaby location, doubling its current student housing capacity. Of those units, 264 are fully self-contained studio apartments, and 206 are single-bedroom units with shared kitchens bathrooms, study spaces and common areas. This project is part of the Province’s Homes for People action plan to build 12,000 new student beds on campuses throughout BC to ease pressure on local rental markets.
The development not only adds vital density and enhances walkability for the Institute’s primary campus but also showcases made-in-BC, cutting-edge mass timber construction. Designed to also exhibit Indigenous culture in the community, the project includes community spaces on the ground floor for Indigenous learners and community members. The project aligns with the school’s commitment to training the next generation of building professionals with BCIT’s trades training facility.
A hybrid prefabricated mass timber design optimizes performance and speeds up construction
At 12 storeys above grade, the tall timber tower is configured as two rectangular wings set at 90 degrees with a below-grade basement for services and added storage. The project uses a hybrid CLT point-supported structure consisting of mass timber (CLT) floors braced on steel HSS columns. By using steel columns and wide-format panels, columns could be fully enclosed within the demising walls between units while allowing units to be unobstructed by stand-alone columns.
The prefabricated CLT panelized design, combined with concentrically braced steel framing for the stair and elevator cores’ lateral resistance system, simplifies assembly and speeds up construction. Furthermore, because the lateral resisting core construction can be completed before the first CLT floor is installed, trade overlap on site is limited.
Energy efficient, sustainable, low carbon mass timber construction
The project’s prefabricated mass timber design helps cut the facility’s overall embodied carbon while the building envelope is designed to meet Step 4 of the Province’s highest level of the BC Energy Step Code program.
Designed in accordance with CaGBC Zero Carbon Building – Design Standard, v3, life cycle assessment modeling helped demonstrate these benefits, along with calculating the project’s total embodied carbon—9,430 tCO2e per year—markedly lower than typical concrete and steel buildings of this size and height.
The project is further boosted with the use of CLT made from Hem-Fir. Abundant in B.C., Western hemlock combined with Amabilis fir is a popular, strong and versatile species group that is currently underutilized. BCIT’s tall timber project is one of the first major uses of this product on a commercial scale.
Ravi Kahlon, parliamentary secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, says mass timber is key to diversifying and creating a more resilient forest sector as the province works to transition to high-value over high-volume production.
“It’s great to see the ripple effects from the expanded use of sustainably harvested, low-carbon wood products in B.C. buildings,” he says. “It helps combat climate change and brings people back to work in forestry-related jobs, while this project creates housing for hundreds of future BCIT students.”
Construction of the project is now underway and expected to be completed in spring 2025.
“Projects like this are a win-win. Using mass timber, we can deliver much needed housing for our growing student population faster and more sustainably—but at the same time we are bringing together local experts, from architects and engineers to contractors and manufacturers, to show the world BC’s innovative approach to low carbon, mass timber construction. This is expertise we are committing to growing right here at BCIT through our cutting-edge trades training programs and education.”
Danica Djurkovic, Architect AIBC, LEED AP, associate vice president campus planning and facilities