NPR interviews leader in mass timber building design

Last fall, Here and Now’s Jeremy Hobson spoke with Michael Green, the Vancouver-based architect who has received international attention for both his support of wood construction and the wood buildings his firm has designed.

Michael Green has been a longstanding proponent of building with wood. His TED Talk “Why we should build wooden skyscrapers” has been viewed over a million times and he spoke passionately during New England Forestry Foundation’s Climate Week NYC event.

michael-green  (Michael Green speaking at a TED Talk in February 2013. Photo credit: TED.com)

His firm, Michael Green Architecture, recently finished construction on the first tall timber building in the U.S. — a seven-story office building in Minneapolis called T3. The firm also has plans to construction a 35-story tower in Paris, which would be the world’s tallest residential building made out of wood if completed.

Read some highlights below or listen to the whole interview at Here and Now.

On the safety of a skyscraper made out of wood
“It is always the first question and with any building you have to worry about fire, and of course with a wood building there are some special conditions that we work with. And so the analogy I often use is, little pieces of wood catch fire, big pieces of wood are very difficult to catch fire. So we all know that in our fireplace…And so the premise is we use huge-scale wood that resists fire naturally and burns very predictably in a very similar way to control a fire as it would be in a steel or a concrete building.”

On the limits of skyscraper construction with wood
“So, what’s interesting about this is the sky is almost the limit. About a year ago we were asked to do an exercise to see, could we have built the Empire State Building in wood? And the Empire State, being 102 stories, we thought well that should be a challenge. But we did some schematic engineering, and sure enough we could’ve. So, it really is, the capacity of wood to carry its weight over these huge heights is absolutely there. And I sort of again point out that if you take three of the trees that grow in our forest out here in western North America and stack them end to end on top of each other, three trees equal the height of the Empire State. So, of course wood can carry that weight and go that high.”

On the advantages of building with wood
“There’s so many reasons to that, and I think the first reason for me is that we should build out of natural materials. We should build out of materials, wood, that has the capacity to sequester carbon dioxide and help us address issues of climate change. We should build out of renewable materials rather than these high-carbon materials of steel and concrete that together represent 8 or 9 percent of our manmade greenhouse gas emissions just for the making of those materials. We need to move to these organic materials, and so wood, if harvested from very responsible forest practices, gives us incredible capacity to build more environmentally and more climate-sensitive buildings.”

“We are using a lot of what’s called mountain pine beetle wood, which is trees that have been killed off by a pine beetle that’s unfortunately ravaging the forests of Canada and now into the United States. And those trees stand and can be harvested and quite effectively turned into the products that build these big buildings.”

 

Final wood panel installed on Brock Commons

It seems like just last week we were writing about construction beginning on a new dormitory and now it’s finishing up. The world’s tallest wood building installed the last wood panel last week, wrapping up this stage of construction in an impressive 66 days. After this milestone, focus will turn to completing the interior and preparing the building for the 404 University of British Columbia students that will soon call the dormitory home. Construction is expected to be fully completed in 2017.

Brock Commons 5
(The last wood panels being installed on Brock Commons. Photo credit: Unknown)

Acton Ostry Architects, the firm that designed Brock Commons, posted on Twitter a time lapse of the construction process. REMI Network details the project, saying the building is made up of 1302 glulam columns and 464 CLT panels.

Construction on Brock Commons wouldn’t be possible without a team of experts. The engineered wood products were provided by Structurlam and made from locally harvested trees. The structural engineering firm, Fast + Epp, used the nature of wood to produce the 18 story building. Paul Fast, founder of Fast + Epp, said of Brock Commons, “We pushed ourselves relentlessly over months of work with the design team and the CLT manufacturer to simplify the structure — think LEGO. The building blends the simplicity and modularity of LEGO with the concrete-like strength of cross laminated timber to help ensure structural efficiency which in the past has been one of the major barriers to building tall with wood. Our solutions effectively address that concern.”

As if being the tallest wood building isn’t enough, Brock Commons also comes with a great view.

To read more about Brock Commons, check out our other blog posts, “Construction on UBC’s new wood dormitory begins” and “Construction on UBC dorm continues.”

Construction on UBC dorm continues

Back in June, we wrote about construction beginning on University of British Columbia’s new timber dormitory. Pictures of the construction process have just been made available and the frame is quickly taking shape.

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(Construction is underway on July 18th for the new 18 story dormitory at UBC. Photo credit: Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia)

Brock Commons
(More than half of the floors have started to become assembled. Photo credit: Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia)

Canadian Architect reports that a new floor is being built every 3 days and is expected to increase. The dormitory is made out of a combination of glue laminated timber (glulam) and cross laminated timber (CLT). The building is scheduled to be complete by Spring 2017.

Plans for tallest hybrid timber structure in the world revealed

Preliminary plans were recently revealed for the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world, Architectural Digest announced. Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and Vancouver developer PortLiving have teamed up to build a residential building thought to break current records.

shigeru-bans-first-canadian-project-tallest-hybrid-timber-structure-world-01
(Design rendering of the planned Terrace House. Photo credit: PortLiving)

Details for the project are still under wraps, but it is believed the skyscraper will be the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world once complete.  The building, currently known as Terrace House, will be located in an area of Vancouver called Coal Harbor.  Nick Mafi reports that the upper portion of the structure will be a combination of a timber frame supported by a concrete and steel core.

Vancouver is not a stranger to building with mass timber. Construction at University of British Columbia’s campus is underway for an 18 story tall dormitory.

Construction on UBC’s new wood dormitory begins

Vancouver will soon have the world’s tallest mass-timber building. Construction has begun at the future home of University of British Columbia’s 18 story tall dormitory. At 53 meters tall (173 feet), Brock Commons student housing will be 4 stories taller than Treet in Norway which currently holds the title for tallest mass-timber building.

As The Province reports, construction began this week as engineered wood panels and pillars were trucked in. All the engineered wood products are made off site by Structurlam Products and delivered.  The building will consist of cross-laminated-timber (CLT) floors and walls held up by pillars composed of glue-laminated wood (glulam).

Nicholas Sills, a supervisor at Structurlam, told The Province, “If you can panelize (materials) and put things together tightly like a Lego kit of parts, it can be extremely efficient…We hope this project goes up very, very fast.”

To see pictures of the building under construction, watch the video by David Rigler in The Province’s “UBC’s timber tower starts to rise.”