Building Fast with Mass Timber

By Lucas Epp,
Vice President & Head of Engineering

Why wood? As cited by the Canadian Wood Council and backed up by their numerous case studies, “wood is renewable, versatile, meets code, and costs less." Significant efforts by the CWC have resulted in a growing awareness and demand for the utilization of wood in modern building construction. Changes to the BC Building Code in 2009 and the expected changes (2015) to the National Building Code of Canada are resulting in increased wood use in mid-rise construction. The BC Wood First Act, implemented in 2009, has also contributed to an increased demand for using more wood for all publicly-funded buildings in BC.

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Why mass timber? Multiple studies in the last two years have shown that the construction cost of a well-designed mass timber building is very close to the cost of a concrete or steel building – generally within +/- 3-5% on total construction cost – and often greatly increases the speed of construction, by up to 20-30%.

On our own Surrey Christian School – a 20,000 sqft building comprising FLT on Glulam beams and columns – the 2-storey superstructure was fully erected, including shear walls, in 4.5 days. In addition to the reduced costs and construction time, there is the benefit of structural efficiency - a mass timber building can be up to 75% lighter than a concrete building, reducing foundation sizes and easing handling of materials.

Some examples of timber projects across the world and their construction times are below. For more details on many of the projects, refer to the excellent Survey of International Tall Wood Buildings put out by FII earlier this year. Note not all erection times are directly comparable due to the widely varying building types included.

Project & Location Stories Floor Structure Vertical Structure GFA Timber Erection Erection Speed
Surrey Christian School 2 NLT Glulam Post + Beam 21500sqft 4.5 days 4780 sqft/day
Svartlamoen, Trondheim, Norway 5 CLT CLT Walls + Cores 23200sqft 10 days 2320 sqft/day
LCT One, Austria 8 NLT concrete composite Concrete Core, Glulam Post + Beam 17200sqft 8 days 2150 sqft/day
Wohnanlage Wagramerstrasse, Vienna 7 CLT Concrete Core, CLT exterior walls 90800sqft 50 days 1820 sqft/day
Limnologen, Sweden 8 CLT CLT Core, Glulam Post + Beam 115200sqft 80 days 1440 sqft/day
3xGrun, Berlin 5 CLT Glulam Post / LVL Beam 31200sqft 25 days 1250 sqft/day
Cenni di Cambiamento, Milan 9 CLT CLT Walls + Cores 183000sqft 150 days 1220 sqft/day
Holz8 8 CLT Concrete Core, CLT exterior walls 18700sqft 16 days 1170 sqft/day
Stadhaus, London 9 CLT CLT Walls + Cores 25300sqft 24 days 1050 sqft/day
Forte, Melbourne 10 CLT CLT Walls + Cores 31100sqft 30 days 1040 sqft/day
UBC Earth Sciences, Vancouver 5 LSL / CLT Glulam Post + Beam 170000sqft 180 days 940 sqft/day
MEC Headquarters 4 NLT Glulam Post + Beam 111900sqft 120 days 930 sqft/day
Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, UBC, Vancouver 4 NLT Glulam Post + Beam 61100sqft 80 days 760 sqft/day
Bridport House, London 8 CLT CLT Walls + Cores 45400sqft 60 days 760 sqft/day
Wood Innovation and Design Centre 6 CLT CLT + Glulam Post + Beam 49000sqft 100 days 490 sqft/day
E3, Berlin 7 NLT concrete composite Glulam Post + Beam 13700sqft 40 days 340 sqft/day