Enviro-friendly mass timber technology to deliver more housing, faster and for less as industry works on solving housing crunch
Published February 7, 2020
The Urban Development Industry held a panel discussion before a sold-out crowd at their February luncheon at Victoria's chapter of The Union Club.
The focus was on the potential of mass timber as a structural framing system for new residential and commercial buildings. As the BC Government announced in 2019, changes to the building code are in the works to permit wood buildings up to 12-storeys in height using mass timber. Mass timber buildings carry the benefits of being a more sustainable building material while being lighter and quicker to build.
The discussion – moderated by Greg Gillespie, development manager for Mike Geric Construction
– included an industry overview from consultants and experts in the field. Mike Marshall, CEO of Kinsol Timber Systems, provided an overview of the different products, techniques, and applications of mass timber his company is currently engaged in, as well as its direct benefits.
Marshall explained that “a mass timber wood structure can act as a carbon sink, since trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, whereas a concrete structure requires substantial energy to fabricate, resulting in the release of carbon dioxide. Mass Timber buildings also outperform their concrete counterparts thermally and have been demonstrated to be cheaper to operate long term.”
Kinsol has been active in the local construction industry and is currently working on the assembly of a mass timber-built library in Esquimalt’s town centre. According to Marshall, since mass timber buildings are entirely prefabricated in a factory and shipped to the site, more skilled workers are needed at the supply end while only a small team is needed to assemble the building structure on site, which will result overall in better and higher paying jobs in the industry.
Andrew Harmsworth of GHL Code Consultants spoke to the challenge of dealing with the emotional reaction many have to the safety of tall wood buildings. Harmsworth is one of Canada’s leading fire safety experts and has been actively engaged with the National Research Council in demonstrating the exceptional performance of mass timber products when exposed to intense fires. Harmsworth noted that mass timber is a traditional building material and that “many 100-plus year-old mass timber buildings are still standing today. A big part of the conversation needs to include recognition of the improvements that have been made in fire detection, response times, and suppression systems that go into newly constructed buildings.”
Jim Alders of HDR Architecture provided an overview of their current work with mass timber. The recently completed Penticton Lakeside Resort was constructed entirely with locally supplied mass timber products, including extensive use of cross-laminated timber panels which were used throughout the building for both structural and aesthetic applications.
“Those of us involved in the design profession are excited about the opportunities for new architectural expressions using mass timber products and the potential to push structural spans and cantilevers as the new products perform differently than steel and concrete,” stated Alders.
The development and construction industry is embracing mass timber and a number of projects are in the pipeline including Mike Geric Construction’s Tresah
, which will be Victoria’s first-to-market mass timber condominium highrise development.
Mike Geric Construction successfully obtained development approval in December of 2019 for the project and is currently working toward a construction start and sales launch.
“This is an exciting project for us and we are getting a lot of interest in Tresah,” said Edward Geric, president, Mike Geric Construction. “The mass timber component is really exciting and we can’t wait to reveal our unique floor plans and interior finishes. To provide flexibility, affordability and to recognize that more and more people are choosing not to own a car, we are going to be offering buyers the option to purchase their home without parking. All of our developments, including Tresah, are located in walkable areas with good transit service and alternatives like car sharing.”
Designed by D’ambrosio Urbanism and Architecture (DAU), Tresah will feature two contemporary and complementary buildings. Tresah East will be a six-storey wood-framed building aimed at first time buyers and investors while the mass timber Tresah West will rise 12 storeys and feature exposed wood ceilings and beams as part of the interior aesthetic. A beautiful space unlike anything Victoria has ever seen, Mike Geric Construction is currently preparing to open the doors to its presentation centre at Mayfair Shopping Centre. Designed to highlight mass timber technology, the highly-anticipated presentation centre will be open to the public and will double as a mass timber learning centre. C
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