Making the Move to Mass Timber
Canadian Property Management | April 2023
Tom Tong, MSc, P.Eng. | Associate
Recently, Canada and the world have begun to embrace mass timber as a preferred construction material for large building projects. One reason, according to Tom Tong, associate with RJC Engineers, is that there are many new examples of successful mass timber projects showcasing this substance as a safe, versatile, sustainable substitute for more carbon-intensive materials like concrete and steel.
“Working with mass timber has become a lot easier today, thanks to the growing number of fabricators and the numerous out-of-shelf connectors that have been developed and tested,” Tong said. “In addition, 3D modelling, and CNC machining have made it possible for more complicated geometry and better tolerance control.”
What’s more, several governments have begun to promote wood as an important step on the road to decarbonization. Concerns about climate change, and the building sector’s primary role in altering its course, have led to the urgent need for construction materials that contribute fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This, coupled with the innovative ideas coming from structural engineers have helped push the boundaries of what can be achieved using wood.
Citing a recent Passive House project in Surrey, BC, Tong pointed out one of the many ways wood’s use in construction has evolved.
“For this project, the innovative structural design pushed the limits of wood-use in the building, proving that mass timber projects don’t have to be as simple as they used to be,” he said. “The wood framing system is typically referred to as a ‘one-way system’ because the wood member is designed and analyzed as a stick frame simply supported on both ends. For the Clayton Community Centre, the desired column grids and architectural intent led us to an innovative scheme composed of a three-member reciprocating wood modular that repeated and expanded in both directions, creating the two-way roof system, and earning the building an award.”