The Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC) in Prince George, British Columbia, with 6 tall storeys and a total height of 29.5 m, provided a unique opportunity for non-destructive testing and monitoring to measure the ‘As Built’ performance of a relatively tall mass timber building. The mass timber structural system consists of glulam columns and beams with cross laminated timber (CLT) floor plates and shear walls. Vertical movement of selected glulam columns and CLT walls and the moisture content of the innovative mass timber roof were monitored as these components are unique to mass timber buildings. Indoor temperature and relative humidity conditions were also measured. The mass timber CLT and glulam elements are susceptible to longer-term differential movement as they slowly dry after manufacturing and construction. The paper describes instrumentation and discusses the measurement results for two years following the topping out of the structure.
The monitoring indicated that the wood inside the building could reach a moisture content (MC) close to 4% in the winter in this cold climate, from an initial MC of around 13% during construction. Glulam columns were dimensionally stable in the longitudinal direction given the MC changes and loading conditions. With a height of over 5 m and 6 m, respectively, two glulam columns directly measured by sensors each showed vertical movement below 3 mm (i.e., 0.04%). The cumulative shortening of the six glulam columns along the height of the columns (24.5 m) is expected to be approximately 11 mm. This did not take into consideration any potential settlement or deformation at connections between glulam columns, or effects of reduced loads on the top two unoccupied floors. The CLT wall panels were also dimensionally stable along the height of the building, with cumulative vertical shrinkage of about 19 mm (i.e., 0.07%) from Level 1 to Level 6. In contrast, the 5-ply CLT floor slabs made up of wood in radial and tangential grain shrank in thickness by about 5 mm (3.0%) on average. With regards to the performance of the mass timber roof, the CLT roof panels started out dry and remained dry due to the robust assembly design and the dry indoor conditions. In one area the plywood roof sheathing was initially wetted by the application of a concrete topping below a piece of mechanical equipment, it was able to dry to the interior within a few months. Overall the monitoring study showed that the differential movement occurring among the glulam columns and the CLT wall was small and the mass timber roof design had good drying performance.
The Guide for Designing Energy-Efficient Building Enclosures for Wood-Frame Multi-Unit Residential Buildings in Marine to Cold Climate Zones in North America was developed by FPInnovations in collaboration with RDH Building Engineering Ltd., the Homeowner Protection Office, Branch of BC Housing, and the Canadian Wood Council.
The project is part of efforts within the Advanced Building Systems Program of FPInnovations to assemble and add to the knowledge base regarding Canadian wood products and building systems. The team of the Advanced Building Systems Program works with members and partners of FPInnovations to address critical technical issues that threaten existing markets for wood products or which limit expansion or access to such new markets. This guide was developed in response to the rapidly changing energy-efficiency requirements for buildings across Canada and the United States.
This guide serves two major objectives:
To assist architects, engineers, designers and builders in improving the thermal performance of building enclosures of wood multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs), in response to the increasingly stringent requirements for the energy efficiency of buildings in the marine to cold climate zones in North America (U.S. DOE/ASHRAE and NECB Climate Zones 5 through 7 and parts of Zone 4);
To advance MURB design practices, construction practices, and material use based on best knowledge, in order to ensure the durable performance of wood-frame building enclosures that are insulated to higher levels than traditional wood-frame construction.
The major requirements for thermal performance of building enclosures are summarized (up to February 2013), including those for the following codes and standards:
2011 National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (2011 NECB);
2013 interim update of the 2010 National Building Code of Canada (2010 NBC, Section 9.36–Energy Efficiency);
2012 International Energy Conservation Code (2012 IECC);
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1– Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings (2004, 2007, and 2010 versions).
In addition to meeting the requirements of the various building codes and standards, a building may need to incorporate construction practices that reflect local preferences in material use, design and construction.
Regional climate differences will also affect design solutions.
This guide primarily addresses above-grade walls, below-grade walls and roofs of platform wood-frame construction. It also includes information regarding thermal performance of cross-laminated timber (CLT) assemblies as well as the use of non-bearing wood-frame exterior walls (infill walls) in wood post-and-beam and concrete structures.
Examples of thermal resistance calculations, building assemblies, critical interface detailing, and appropriate material selection are provided to help guide designers and builders meet the requirements of the various energy-efficiency codes and standards, achieve above-code performance, and ensure long-term durability. This guide builds on the fundamentals of building science and on information contained within the Building Enclosure Design Guide: Wood-Frame Multi-Unit Residential Buildings, published by the Homeowner Protection Office, Branch of BC Housing.
This guide is based on the best current knowledge and future updates are anticipated. The guide is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice that considers specific building parameters.
Canadian Conference on Building Science and Technology
Cross laminated timber (CLT) and mass timber construction is a promising structural technology that harnesses the advantageous structural properties of wood combined with renewability and carbon sequestering capacities not readily found in other major structural materials. However, as an organic material, mass timber is susceptible to biodeterioration, and when considered in conjunction with increased use of engineered wood materials, particularly in more extreme environments and exposures, it requires careful assessments to ensure long-term performance.
A promising approach towards reducing construction moisture in CLT and other mass timber assemblies is to protect the surfaces with a water-resistant coating. To assess this approach, a calibrated hygrothermal model was developed with small and large scale CLT samples, instrumented with moisture content sensors at different depths, and treated with different types of water resistant coatings exposed to the Vancouver climate. The models were further validated with additional moisture content sensors installed in a mock-up floor structure of an actual CLT building under construction. Biodeterioration studies assessing fungal colonization were undertaken using the modified VTT growth method and a Dose-Response model for decay potential.
The research indicates that CLT and mass timber is susceptible to dangerously high moisture contents, particularly when exposed to liquid water in horizontal applications. However, a non-porous, vapour impermeable coating, when applied on dry CLT, appears to significantly reduce the moisture load and effectively eliminate the risk of biodeterioration. This work strongly suggests that future use of CLT consider applications of a protective water-resistant coating at the manufacturing plant to resist construction moisture. The fungal study also highlights the need for a limit state design for biodeterioration to countenance variance between predicted and observed conditions.
Canadian Conference on Building Science and Technology
On tall wood buildings, mass timber elements including CLT, NLT, glulam, and other engineered
components absolutely need to be protected from excessive wetting during construction. This requirement precludes the use of many conventional cladding systems unless the building is fully hoarded during construction.
The building enclosure and façade of UBC Tallwood House consists of an innovative prefabricated steel stud rainscreen curtain-wall assembly that is pre-insulated, pre-clad, and has factory installed windows. Design of connections and air and water sealing of panel joints and interfaces was carefully considered given the tall wood structure they were designed to protect. While steel studs were utilized in the panelized structure, feasible curtain-wall designs were also developed and prototyped for wood-framing, CLT, and precast concrete as part of the project.
Looking ahead, there will continue to be innovation in design and construction of fast and durable facades for taller wood buildings. New prefabricated panel designs incorporating CLT panels and connection technologies from unitized curtainwall systems are already being developed for the “next tallest” wood buildings in North America.
Mass timber and CLT construction offers many advantages, such as enhanced modularity, reduced construction schedules, improved thermal performance, and material sustainability. However, mass timber’s propensity to absorb moisture from the environment and the relative vapor impermeability of CLT panels introduces unique challenges when incorporated with the building enclosure. These challenges should be considered during design and construction phases to ensure long-term performance.
The VaproShield Mass Timber Building Enclosure Design Guideline covers the best practices for the design and construction of high-performance CLT wall and roof assemblies. RDH is the principal author and editor of the guide and within its capacity, we do not purport to endorse any specific material or technical matter within this guide.