Mass timber continues to be a hot topic of discussion within the development industry in British Columbia. The International Building Code now allows for mass timber to be used for buildings up to 18 storeys. The change allows developers to consider it for residential multi-family projects and prompts one big question: “What will it cost to build my high-rise project with mass timber in our market?”
The team that developed this report represents an independent team of architects, structural engineers, quantity surveyors, and a general contractor. Consultants from fire, building code, and acoustic industries also provided expertise to the study. In late Fall 2020, we formed an industry group in Vancouver to answer this question with an exclusive focus on the local market. We identified a need for a significant shift in the local industry’s building philosophy when using mass timber as a structural material.
Our goal was to assess the viability of mass timber for this product type in British Columbia by comparing the cost, construction methods, and schedules of a typical concrete high-rise in Vancouver to those for the same building using mass timber as the principal structural material. To undertake the study, the group created virtual models of the base building and conceptual models for side-by-side detailed comparisons.
While gaining in popularity, building a high-rise with engineered mass timber remains an unconventional method in British Columbia. To support the industry, we wanted to fill in gaps in data to better understand and help solve the challenges of working with new materials and techniques needed for mass timber construction at scale.
This study presents what we learned about cost, schedule, and code implications as well as methodology efficiencies. It must be noted that the study took place over a period in Q2 and Q3 of 2021 when lumber and steel prices – two of the principal materials – experienced high volatility in supply and record increases in price.
Since every building project and market is unique, the report makes no claims concerning specific cost or time frame. Rather, it identifies what to consider in creating a reliable framework for optimizing costs and schedules while meeting code requirements when building residential high-rise mass timber buildings.