With the help of a prefabricated mass timber building system this commercial building accommodates a tight zero-lot-line site using quieter, faster construction methods. Erected in just 10 days, the project, given the moniker PH1, was built to rigorous Passive House design standards to meet the owner’s energy efficiency and sustainability goals. It showcases how a wood-built workplace can be a modern, high-tech and sustainable alternative to conventional construction.
- Prefabricated mass timber system met urban site challenges while enabling a speedy 10-day installation.
- CLT shear wall panels were pre-insulated to Passive House standards boosting fire resistance and significantly reducing the building’s energy demand.
- Wood was left exposed to the interior, for a natural aesthetic that fits well with the historic neighbourhood.
Innovative timber design packs a punch
When it comes to energy efficiency, advanced timber engineering, occupant comfort and design this high-tech commercial office project punches above its weight. The three-storey building squeezes into a narrow urban lot in the heart of North Vancouver’s Shipyard District with the help of made-in-BC prefabricated mass timber construction.
Featuring a main floor restaurant with two floors of office space above, PH1 was built using a glue-laminated (glulam) post and beam system with 5-ply cross-laminated timber (CLT) roof and floor panels, and 5-ply CLT shear wall panels, all manufactured in British Columbia. The building features a contemporary-industrial-inspired feel. South facing, a checkerboard of glazing draws in natural light to the open-plan office space while recessed ground floor glazing looks out to an exterior seating area. The overall design complements the scale of the surrounding neighbourhood that includes retail, galleries, amenities and restaurants. Walkability and easy access to public transit reduced the need for underground parking—in turn maximizing the building’s leasable square footage.
Mass timber met big challenges of this urban infill project
As an urban infill project flanked by a building at the back, an alley on one side and a street on the other two sides, the tight site location complicated design and construction. The solution—a vertical CLT exposed wall system that serves triple duty: acts as a sheer wall adjacent to the neighbouring building; achieves Passive House requirements by incorporating pre-insulated CLT panels and meets building code requirements for fire ratings. A building’s party wall on a zero-lot line site is typically required to be noncombustible. In this case, the City of North Vancouver approved the use of CLT for this wall on account of fire-retardant treatments and its natural fire resistance—mass timber chars, forming a protective layer while retaining strength.
Passive House design to deliver high-performance energy savings
PH1 was built to meet the rigorous energy standards for Passive House. This means it will use up to 90% less energy compared to a conventional building. Mass timber helped the design team meet the stringent criteria while addressing the unique challenges of the tight space. All of the CLT panels were fabricated to exact specifications, which helped reduce gaps and improve airtightness. CLT shear wall panels were pre-insulated to Passive House standards, then lowered by crane accommodating the constraints of the tight lot.
Prefabricated timber components helped speed construction
To reduce construction disruption in the busy neighbourhood, the contractor used a nearby staging yard to apply the membrane and insulation on the CLT for the north wall panels; some of the glulam posts and beams were even pre-connected. Materials were then delivered to the jobsite in a just-in-time sequence and lifted into place by crane. By using prefabrication, building information modeling (BIM) technology and virtual design and construction (VDC) modeling, they shortened the installation schedule from 21 to just 10 days, offering significant savings to the project.