One of the tallest wood buildings in the world will soon be constructed at UBC, providing housing for hundreds of students. When completed, the $51.5 million residence building will stand 53 metres tall. “This beautiful, new tall wood building will serve as a living laboratory for the UBC community,” said Martha Piper, interim president. “It will advance the university’s reputation as a hub of sustainable and innovative design, and provide our students with much needed on-campus housing.”

Construction of the 18-storey tall wood student residence is set to start in September 2017. It will house 404 students in 272 studios and 33 four-bedroom units, and feature study and social gathering spaces. There will also be a ground-floor lounge and study space for commuter students. “This project shows that when it comes to building with wood, British Columbia’s innovation can’t be beaten,” said Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. “By taking advantage of new building technologies, we’re also expanding our markets for B.C. wood products – and supporting jobs in the forest sector.”

In addition to its primary function as a student residence, the building will serve as an academic site for students and researchers, who will be able to study and monitor its operations.

The tall wood building will consist of a mass timber superstructure atop a concrete base. Wood is a sustainable and versatile building material that stores, rather than emits, carbon dioxide. UBC aims for the building to achieve a minimum LEED Gold certification, a rating system that evaluates how environmentally friendly a structure is in its design and energy use. UBC’s Student Housing and Hospitality Services, the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, Forestry Innovation Investment, Natural Resources Canada and B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations are contributing funding for the building.

Other wood structure buildings on UBC’s Vancouver campus include the new AMS Student Nest and Engineering Student Centre, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility, and the Earth Sciences Building. Earlier this year, the B.C. government passed the provincial Building Act, which enables innovation in building construction. The Building Act enabled the Province to develop a regulation to allow construction of UBC’s new tall wood student residence, with rigorous health and safety standards. The regulation was developed with the project design team, UBC’s chief building official and an independent building code consultant.

A number of tall wood projects have been completed around the world in recent years. Today, the concept is gaining traction in North America as a safe, sustainable and cost-effective construction option. The world’s previous tallest wood buildings were the 32-metre 10-storey Forté apartment building in Melbourne, Australia and the Treet (The Tree) 14-storey apartments block in Bergen, Norway. Prince George’s Wood Innovation and Design Centre, completed in October 2014, is the tallest wood building in North America, standing at 29.5 metres. Two other tall wood projects have been announced for New York and Portland.