With the advocacy for sustainable construction on the rise, use of timber as the main building material is being championed in large-scale construction projects. While the advancement of engineered timber products is addressing some issues that previously limited the use of wood in high-rise construction, there are still challenges such as fire and weather safety, code compliance and negative public perceptions. One main gap in the available resources is the lack of a comprehensive and detailed case study of a high-rise project with wood as the main construction material to capture constraints and innovations necessary in creating success, which has formed the direction of this research. This thesis is focused on documenting a case study of the Brock Commons project, an 18 storey, hybrid timber-concrete residential high-rise located at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver campus, which is the tallest hybrid timber building in the world. The overall research objective was to identify and document the delivery of this innovative project, with a specific emphasis on the innovations necessary to make timber high-rise construction successful and the use of VDC tools in the design and pre-construction process. The case study documents the project context, the design process, the business and industry drivers, and the motivation for construction. Moreover, it investigates the motivations for all stakeholders, identifies the challenges and constraints, and captures the innovative solutions that were utilized to ensure project success. The case study also documents the innovative use of VDC to support prefabrication and overall project coordination. Specifically, it investigates the role of the VDC integrators in the project, the paths of communications with the different project team members, and the inputs and outputs of each phase of design and construction. This research identified lessons learned that can be applied to other construction projects where timber is the main structural component and a heavy use of VDC and pre-fabrication is required. Use of timber and innovative methods in construction have been consistently rising in the past decade, and this research aims to provide a starting point for future efforts in mass timber high-rise construction.
Mass timber construction in Australia and New Zealand uses three main materials—laminated veneer lumber, glue laminated timber and cross-laminated timber (CLT). This article focuses on the use of mass timber in nonresidential construction—the use in single-family homes and apartments is not considered. In Australia and New Zealand, mass timber building technology has moved from being technologically possible to being a feasible alternative to reinforced concrete and steel construction. It has not taken over a large market share in either market and, as such, has not been a disruptive technology. The major changes in this market in the past 5-10 yr in Australia and New Zealand have been the development of new industrial capacity in CLT and the acquisition of computer controlled machining equipment to facilitate prefabrication of wooden building components. The development of new codes and standards and design guides is underway. The drivers of future growth in market share are expected to include more clients putting a higher weight on the various environmental benefits of building in wood, reduction in the real and perceived professional risk for builders and architects specifying mass timber construction, and fuller participation in the supply chain for timber buildings (from design to construction) by timber building specialists. Government policies to encourage the use of timber may also be helpful. Engineers and architects will continue to learn—through experience—how to optimize building construction methods to take advantage of the specific features and qualities of timber as a construction method.
Across B.C. and Canada, communities are under pressure to create better-performing buildings that meet stringent code requirements while reducing construction waste. Meanwhile, consumers are demanding high-quality structures that are delivered quickly and at a reasonable price. Modern methods of construction that include prefabrication can help construction professionals create buildings that meet all these criteria.
Furthermore, prefabrication provides steady employment and is good for the economy. The market opportunities are present across Canada and in the U.S., but prefabrication is not being used to its potential due to several barriers:
Negative perception of quality
Fear of innovation
Lack of information and understanding
Unclear economic benefits
Limited industry capacity
Planning and regulatory complications
A concerted effort to address these barriers includes:
Improving products through research and development
Researching, documenting, and promoting best practices
Developing guidance documents so prefabrication is easier to incorporate
Providing national-level leadership and resources to promote innovation
Successfully implementing these recommendations will require a broad and deep national perspective, an understanding of all stages and aspects of wood construction, and the vision and skills to bring together diverse experts and stakeholders.
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