World’s tallest wooden structure ‘built in 9 weeks' in Vancouver

17 December 2018

One of the world’s tallest wooden building - an 18-storey student accommodation block in Vancouver - took just nine weeks to build.

Flat-pack, off-site construction allowed the Brock Commons project to progress so quickly - and the wood used to construct the building took just 45 minutes to grow when the amount of forestry in British Columbia is taken into account.  

Adam James, who works in Ryder Architecture’s Vancouver office, told Confor’s Superwood conference that this was one of many significant timber construction projects undertaken as part of British Columbia’s wood-first policy. 

"For any publicly procured building, we have to consider wood as our first building material or provide an explanation why we aren’t using wood,” said Mr James, who is originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, where the conference took place.

This wood-first policy approach was linked to climate change objectives and supported by national policy in Canada and federal policy in British Columbia, Mr James said. It was backed up by a strong focus on timber construction in education and skills, creating a very favourable environment in which building projects using wood can flourish. "Education is a key piece of the equation,” said Mr James. “Between policy and education, the projects happen."

Wood Works, part of the Canadian Wood Council, is the "glue that sticks developments together” by linking policy, industry, education, communication and awards, said Mr James. It helped to create the right educational environment and supply chain, he added.

However, when the 18-storey building was proposed, nothing was going higher than six storeys in timber, so “we had to go out there and demonstrate it”. said Mr James.

Three floors were built every week for six weeks and the entire project was complete in nine weeks, said Mr James, with 1800 tonnes of carbon embedded in the building.“It was an extremely clean site, a very safe project and it brought confidence back to the industry. We are now looking to change the building code so we can go higher.”

Mr James said the regular use of timber in construction had helped to embed a wood-first culture in British Columbia: “It becomes part of the culture and as more projects go up, it becomes commonplace."