Brock Commons Tallwood House: Mass Wood for the Masses

Last Monday April 3rd, three members of the Centre for Future Timber Structures at the University of Queensland, Dr Juan Hidalgo, Kathryn Humphreys, and Kim Baber, had the pleasure to attend a lunch organised by Timber Queensland to listen to Russell Acton from Acton Ostry Architects (Canada) and his approach to designing today world’s largest tallest timber building.

Russell Acton provided an overview of the design and construction of Brock Commons Tallwood House, an 18-storey student residence at the University of British Columbia (Canada), under the slogan of ‘keep it simple‘. This building is a mass timber construction that consists of a hybrid structure based on a concrete core, glulam columns, cross-laminated timber (CLT) slabs, and steel perimeter beams acting as stiffeners for the CLT slabs, and with prefabricated facades panels. Most of the engineered timber is encapsulated with drywall due to the challenge to obtain building approvals in record-time. Acton remarked that the construction of such building demonstrated the multiple benefits of mass engineered timber construction, such as:

  • fast speed of construction due to the use of prefabricated timber systems (two levels of mass timber structure and prefabricated façade were installed each week);
  • ease and precision of construction;
  • clear floor layout to work after installation of CLT floor slabs; and
  • reduction of noise, on-site pollution, and construction interference to neighbouring buildings.

During Acton’s talk, it was highlighted that while today’s ambition is to achieve a total mass timber building and allow large surfaces of exposed timber, we are not there yet. Thus, this Project had a more pragmatic goal: to demonstrate that tall-timber buildings are possible. Despite the conservative approach adopted by encapsulating the timber structure, Acton Ostry Architects hope that this Project ‘may help lead to a future where the use of CLT is more commonplace‘.

A talk by David Rowlinson from Planet Ark preluded Russell Acton’s talk on the design and construction of Brock Commons. David Rowlinson highlighted the multiple benefits of timber construction, such as environmental due to carbon sequestering or even physiological and psychological health benefits to people living in timber-based built environments. Rowlinson introduced the ‘Make It Wood’ campaign focused on the ‘nature-connected design’, which relies on bringing the benefits of nature into the built environment.

We would like to thank Timber Queensland for the invitation to participate in this excellent event.

Brock Commons construction process presented by Acton Ostry Architects
[link]
Nature-inspired design presented by Planet Ark
[link]
Images source:
http://www.actonostry.ca/project/brock-commons-tallwood-house/
https://www.canadianarchitect.com/features/reaching-new-heights-2/
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