Mass timber is a resilient, long-lasting, and sustainable material that can be used in place of steel or concrete to create structures that provide durable, cost-effective performance with less embodied carbon. Mass timber products are constructed by assembling smaller lumber pieces using adhesives, dowels, and nails to create large, load-bearing building components that are exponentially stronger than standard timber. They can be utilized in various applications such as beams, columns, as well as floor, roof and wall panels, offering versatility in construction methods and design possibilities. Because mass timber components are precisely manufactured assemblies, they provide inherent thermal benefits and can help make building envelopes more energy-efficient and airtight. This makes mass timber buildings well-suited to energy-efficient construction and the rigorous standards of Passive House and Net-Zero-ready design. 

Mass timber pre-assemblyWhy Mass Timber?

  • There’s a growing revolution in the building industry, as mass timber continues to evolve from an emerging technology to the preferred norm for structural building components in British Columbia (BC). Both Provincial and local building codes continue to advance in favour of mass timber construction, recently expanding to support more efficient and effective applications such as 18-storey residential buildings. In addition to its inherent environmental and economic benefits, mass timber can also be used to differentiate a development by creating a unique design aesthetic that allows the natural beauty of the wood to shine through.
  • With a long history of innovation, BC is a global leader in the production and application of mass timber products. Natural Resources Canada reports that since 2007, more than 355 multi-family, commercial, and institutional projects using mass timber have been constructed or are underway in BC alone. The Province’s mass timber sector is projected to be worth $403 million by 2035.

Mass timber installation

Benefits of Mass Timber

  • Sustainability

    • The construction industry is a major contributor to the world’s overall CO2 emissions. Traditional building materials such as concrete and steel are carbon intensive and non-renewable, heavily contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions. Mass timber on the other hand, is a climate-friendly alternative that naturally sequesters carbon, storing it in the material for as long as the product remains in service. Mass timber consistently outperforms concrete and steel in terms of embodied energy, air and water pollution, carbon footprint, and global warming potential, especially when assessed through its lifetime, from harvest to disposal/recycling.
    • Unlike conventional construction, mass timber components can be dismantled, stored, and re-utilized in future projects. The ability to easily assemble and dismantle mass timber environments provides an opportunity to transition to a circular, rather than disposable, life-cycle for building materials. 
  • Efficient, Cost-Saving Construction

    • One of the most appealing aspects of mass timber as a building material is the ease and rapid pace of construction it allows. Mass timber is pre-fabricated in off-site manufacturing facilities which ensures a high degree of quality and precision. They can be pre-fitted with connectors, so that components can be lifted directly from the truck and into place at the jobsite, saving time, reducing job-site waste, and reducing impact on the surrounding neighbourhood. 
  • Occupant Comfort

    • Wood has recognized advantages when it comes to creating an environment that fosters health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that occupants experience improved mood, health, productivity, and comfort when surrounded by natural materials, which makes mass timber especially appropriate in public buildings, such as schools and hospitals. 
  • Structural Performance 

    • Mass timber is lighter than steel and concrete, with a high strength-to-weight ratio, which gives it the structural ability to span long distances without supports. It can be utilized in all aspects of construction, including walls, structural beams and bracing. Additionally, its lighter weight helps provide a better seismic response, can reduce the size of the foundations, and reduces transportation-related costs, and can decrease overall foundation costs. It often has the dual role of serving both as a structural material and aesthetic finishing material, minimizing the need for additional assemblies.
  • Safety

    • Mass Timber construction has a proven safety record in British Columbia. Mass timber construction meets the same performance demands as other structural materials, as set out in the BC Building Code. Extensive fire testing has shown that mass timber chars on the outside, which forms an insulating layer protecting the interior from further damage. In the event of fire, the structure maintains its integrity, allowing occupants time to evacuate. Because it behaves predictably during a fire, mass timber is safe for tall building construction. 
    • In addition to fire safety, Mass timber structures also meet, and in some cases exceed, the seismic performance of steel and concrete buildings. Mass timber buildings can achieve sufficient stiffness, strength, and ductility to resist strong winds and earthquakes due to their lighter mass, and from properly designed connections between the more rigid elements designated to resist lateral loads. 

Mass timber beauty

Our Expertise

  • With over 20 years of experience working with Mass Timber in British Columbia, SLA is recognized as a leader in the design of Mass Timber buildings, leveraging our proven experience to advance mass timber for various project types and sizes. With an in-depth understanding of different mass timber and engineered wood products, we can deliver on efficient design strategies to maximize structural efficiencies, while also utilizing BIM workflows to optimize the delivery of the project. 
  • Stephane was a contributor to the 2024 Mass Timber Road Map (read about Canada’s mass timber future here), which was prepared by The Transition Accelerator/ L’Accélérateur de transition, Forest Products Association of Canada, Canadian Wood Council, and the Energy Futures Lab. Stephane has also participated in numerous Mass Timber Conferences and Tours, including Forum Holzbau in Innsbruck, Austria and the International Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Oregon.
  • As the industry continues to research and innovate, mass timber products are becoming more competitively priced and technically refined. SLA is excited to pioneer this material renaissance, sharing knowledge and insight to push architecture and design towards a greener future.

 

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