Canadian Consulting Engineer | February 8, 2024
Meredith Anderson, MSCE, P.Eng., Struct.Eng. | Principal

Mass timber’s role in creating lasting, sustainable community centres

Recreation and community centres are important hubs that serve many roles for an area’s residents, whether it’s playing host to weekly fitness classes, providing key social services, or acting as a shelter during an extreme weather event. Given the range of uses these large public facilities exist to fulfill, a lot goes into their planning and design.

“Recreation centres are high-importance buildings,” explains Meredith Anderson, Principal with RJC Engineers. “From a structural perspective, they are designed for higher loads and have more stringent requirements for seismic design given they can be important spaces in the case of, say, a large earthquake. In addition, they must be welcoming and accommodating to all users in the community. Programs such as the Rick Hansen Certification provide great guidelines to ensure their design meets the highest standards for accessibility.”

In a perfect world, there would be no budgetary limitations on a space that serves so many roles, but the reality is quite the opposite. As such, those involved in creating community centres have their work cut out for them; not only is the goal to deliver an aesthetically pleasing facility that will endure, but one that embodies community togetherness, heath and wellness, and reflects the unique history and culture of the area at large.

As Anderson puts it, “Structural systems need to respond to the needs of the building and meet the budget constraints that come with the funding models for these building types. With the continuing escalation in construction costs, it’s harder to make these projects become reality.”

And then there’s the sustainability piece—which every new building today has come to prioritize. Fortunately, wood is the material of choice for most community centres, and Anderson has a lot of love for this versatile renewable resource.

“Wood brings huge benefits to the overall carbon footprint of a building when looking at it from the perspective of the embodied carbon through a Life Cycle Assessment,” she says.

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