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Buildings take old-fashioned wood and give it a new bent

Commercial and civic projects across Canada are pushing the boundaries of wood design

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Innovative commercial and public wood buildings are springing up across Canada. Here, the GlaxoSmithKline Inc. administration building in Quebec City, completed in 2011, showcases the flexibility of wooden structures.

Stéphane Groleau/Centre of Expertise on commercial wood construction (cecobois)

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Built of glue-laminated timber, the three-storey carbon-neutral building, designed by Coarchitecture, won the architectural innovation award of excellence from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 2013.

Stéphane Groleau

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The latest showcase for innovation in design and construction of large-scale wood buildings opened last fall in downtown Prince George, B.C. The Wood Innovation and Design Centre, owned by the provincial government, houses academic and research programs at the University of Northern British Columbia and corporate offices.

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The building features a “dry construction” design, virtually eliminating the use of concrete above the foundation with the exception of the mechanical penthouse. This concept allows the wood structure to be exposed as the ceiling finish.

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The building used a variety of B.C. wood species, including Douglas fir, western red cedar, hemlock, pine and spruce. The structural design and building envelope focused on engineered wood products: glulam columns and beams, cross-laminated timber, parallel-strand lumber, and laminated veneer lumber.

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Western red cedar panelling was used to clad the exterior. Using an ancient Japanese technique, the exterior cedar was charred as a protective finish to resist weathering, according to WIDC architect Michael Green. At 29.5 metres, the Wood Innovation and Design Centre is the tallest contemporary wood structure of its type in North America. The height by code and site-specific regulations is six storeys but the effective height is eight storeys with the penthouse and a second-floor mezzanine.

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Mr. Green, principal of Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture, designed both Prince George’s Wood Innovation and Design Centre and North Vancouver City Hall, seen here.

mcfarlane green biggar

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The co-author of the 2012 industry-financed study, The Case for Tall Wood Buildings, Mr. Green has worked to raise the profile of wood. This civic building, which features long beams of laminated strand lumber, last year won a Governor-General’s medal for architecture.

mcfarlane green biggar

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Climate change is one impetus for exploring the potential of wood, a renewable resource, in high-rise construction, Mr. Green says. “The way we build today, without question, has a huge carbon footprint both in the materials that go into the making of a building and of course, its operations.”

mcfarlane green biggar

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McFarland, Marceau Architects Ltd. were early adopters of cross-laminated timber, which allows for large spans without beams. Here, the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility at the University of British Columbia.

McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd.

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This rendering shows the new library wing, designed by Toronto-based LGA Architectural Partners, at the Laurentian University School of Architecture in Sudbury, Ont.

LGA Architectural Partners & The Flat Side of Design

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The project marks the first large-scale use of cross-laminated timber in a public building in Ontario, according to the university. Read the full story at the link below: Next-generation wood pushes to greater heights.

LGA Architectural Partners & The Flat Side of Design

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