Risk Analysis and Alternative Solutions for Three- and Four-Storey Wood Schools

Gibsons Elementary School
Photo credit: Ed White Photographics

Though wood construction offers a viable structural material option for these buildings, the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC 2018) currently limits schools comprised of wood construction to a maximum of two storeys. Three- and four-storey schools and larger floor areas in wood construction require an alternative solution.

The report by GHL Consultants identifies key fire safety features offered by combustible construction materials including tested and currently widely available engineered mass timber products, such as glued-laminated timber and cross-laminated timber. A risk analysis identifies the risk areas defined by the objectives of the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC 2018) and evaluates the level of performance of the Building Code solutions for assembly occupancies vis-à-vis the level of performance offered by the proposed schools up to four storeys in building height.

As land values continue to rise, particularly in higher-density urban environments, schools with smaller footprints will become increasingly more necessary to satisfy enrollment demands.

Risk Analysis and Alternative Solution for Three- and Four-Storey Schools of Mass Timber and/or Wood-Frame Construction

There are currently a number of planned new school projects throughout British Columbia that anticipate requiring either three- or four-storey buildings, and it is forecasted that the demand for school buildings of this size will continue to rise.

Internal view of UBC Earth Sciences Building atrium demonstrating multi-storey timber construction techniques for higher-density urban environments
Design Options for Three-and Four-Storey Wood School Buildings in BC

     

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Glue-laminated timber (Glulam), Laminated veneer lumber (LVL), and Plywood prominently featured in this interior view of Wellington Secondary School
Cost Comparison Report: Four-Storey Wood School Design in British Columbia

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Glue-laminated timber (Glulam) columns support the prefabricated wood frame ceiling in this interior view of the Skidegate Elementary School Gymnasium
Wood Use in British Columbia Schools

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Wood flooring, desktops, cubicles, and hybrid ceiling construction feature prominently in this interior view of a Kwakiutl Wagalus School classroom
Wood Use in British Columbia Schools: research by Stantec and Fast + Epp

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