Wood & Panel

Wood : the future of sustainable construction

 Monday, January 16, 2023

Wood construction empowered the University of British Columbia to depict three of its cornerstone values in building the new Gateway Building: sustainability, personal well-being and Indigenous collaboration, mentions planning and design director Gerry McGeough. For this reason, over $180 million has been spent on the University of British Columbia’s new Gateway Building, a six-story, 267,000 square foot mass timber structure intended to be an iconic welcoming spot for students, teachers, and visitors. The building’s excavation is complete, and construction on the foundation has just started.

“Mass timber was sort of a triple word score for us,” said McGeough, director of planning and design with the university, in an interview with the Journal of Commerce. “We’re lowering embodied carbon, we’re focusing on student well-being with this warm space for the users of the building and wood is also a very important material for the Musqueam people,” he said. Sustainability is a fundamental aspect for the university’s planning department.

Winner of Canadian Architect Award of Excellence in 2021
As part of a policy known as “Campus as a Living Lab,” they aim to enhance sustainability-related mindset via all of their infrastructure and development, notes McGeough. They seek to use mass timber as a way to (reach net-zero). Unlike concrete or steel, mass timber comes with incorporated carbon suppressors, which enables them to combine net-zero operations with a reduction in embodied carbon in this project.

The Gateway aims to be the university’s first building to meet the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building standard, states the project profile on Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, one of the collaborators on the project. Design was also done by Perkins&Will. The building design won the Canadian Architect Award of Excellence in 2021, with the jury commenting that the targeted GHGI goal of 1.4 was a “significant achievement.”

The warmth of the exposed wood, mentions McGeough, supports the notion of wellness. “The wood is really celebrated in the central atrium space,” he said. The Musqueam placed a high value on the wellbeing of the pupils and identified relationships with nature and the surrounding environment as means to promote mental wellness. Further, mass timber offered the chance to keep a natural link inside.

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