Wood Innovation Research Lab


Prince George, BC


1,070 square metres





Structural Engineer

Aspect Structural Engineers

Construction Manager

IDL Projects Inc.

Wood Supplier

Western Archrib

Wood Species


Project Materials

Glue-laminated timber (Glulam)


Structural Systems

Low rise


Passive House / High performance

Post + beam


The Wood Innovation Research Lab (WIRL), a single-storey glue-laminated timber (glulam) post-and-beam state-of-the-art facility, is the first industrial building in North America to be designed to the Passive House standard, a significant achievement given the large, exposed surface areas of the building and the region’s cold winters.

  • A space for students and researchers to test state-of-the-art building systems and to study ways to integrate wood into more structural designs for industrial buildings
  • Strong floor and wall structures accommodate heavy testing equipment
  • Features locally-fabricated timber trusses

The University of Northern British Columbia’s (UNBC’s) research facility for students and faculty in the Master of Engineering in Integrated Wood Design program includes labs, classrooms, and a mezzanine with additional office space.  

Mass timber as an alternative to conventional steel construction 

The nearly all-wood design shows how mass timber can be a sustainable alternative to the typical steel construction of industrial buildings. Prefabricated mass timber components meant most of the construction work could be completed in a safedry and controlled shop environment, reducing the risk of shrinkage or swelling of the wood components in this cold, northern climate. Strong floor and wall structures accommodate heavy testing equipment, with a superstructure that supports the roof and the overhead crane. Trusses are fabricated by a Prince George-based company using dimension lumber from a local sawmill. 

First building of its kind to meet energy-efficient passive house standards

Rather than using conventional studs for the walls, the 500 millimetres of mineral wool insulation required to meet the Passive House standard is fitted between vertical light-wood trusses that were custom built in a local factory. Interior sheathing materials for floor, wall, and roof assemblies are left exposed. 

Step lightly: smaller carbon footprint than similar buildings

A life-cycle analysis determined that, with its low energy demands, biofuel heating source, and the carbon stored in its wood structure, the building generates 70 percent less greenhouse gas than a similarly constructed industrial building designed to current code standards. 

The decision to use wood, when considering the environmental impact from materials alone, showed a 22 percent improvement over steel due to wood’s lower carbon footprint and ability to sequester carbon. 

This building has caught the attention of Passive House researchers around the world because it demonstrates how an industrial structure, constructed with wood, in a northern climate exceeds a rigorous, internationally recognized energy efficiency standard.

Dr. Guido Wimmers, Chair/Associate Professor, Engineering Graduate Program, UNBC

Exterior daytime view of the Wood Innovation Research Laboratory (built to the Passive House standards) showing wood hybrid construction
Wood Innovation Research Lab building research report

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Exterior view of completed Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC) which features mass timber construction, prefabrication, hybrid wood, and tall wood design
Wood Innovation and Design Centre

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Glue-laminated timber (Glulam) and sustainable design are featured in this four story upward interior atrium view of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS)
Wood in higher education

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Interior view of Samuel Brighouse Elementary showing student and demonstrating mass timber products, and hybrid timber systems construction
Wood in education

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