Tall Timber Trends Higher Across North America

The T3 building standing tall at dusk

Artistic rendering of Arbour, displaying a contemporary mass timber and exterior wood-clad design | Courtesy George Brown College, Moriyama and Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects

Arbour building in Southeast Asia on a snowy day

Tall Timber Comes to Toronto

The most recent of this growing stock of taller wood projects is George Brown College’s The Arbour, an innovative 10-story mass timber building poised to transform Toronto’s skyline.

The $134-million project at the college’s Waterfront Campus will use an estimated 3,000 cubic meters (1050 tons) of wood and will include a mass timber research hub, helping to further advance the very technology driving the building’s construction and design. Its environmentally friendly stand-out design, created by Moriyama and Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects, targets net zero emissions, with construction set to begin in 2021.

The building is the first project funded through Canada’s Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) program that encourages the use of wood in non-traditional construction projects, such as tall buildings. Natural Resources Canada spearheads the initiative and issued a news release announcing the project.

The Arbour is just one of several wood buildings reaching new heights, with several completed or underway in both Canada and the U.S.—a trend that is only expected to climb.

Artistic rendering of Arbour displaying a light-filled mass timber atrium with an abundance of exposed wood | Courtesy George Brown College, Moriyama and Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects

A wooden beam atrium for the Arbour Learning Landscape

Timber Trailblazing Pays Off

Tall wood construction is not entirely new to Canada, home to Brock Commons Tallwood House, the first 18-story mass timber building, which at the time of completion in 2017 was the world’s tallest contemporary wood building. Serving as a student residence for the University of British Columbia, the  structure’s hybrid design—comprised of cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels supported on glued-laminated timber (glulam) columns—is the result of a full court press by the construction and design industry to showcase what is possible with mass timber.

An important precursor to Brock Commons, the eight-story Wood Innovation and Design Centre located in Prince George, British Columbia served as an early demonstration project and template for constructing future wood buildings of different heights, sizes and functions.

Brock Commons, at 18 stories high, was a precedent setting project, helping mass timber rise in popularity and height | Photo by Michael Elkan Photography

Looking up at a multifamily mass timber building

Tall Wood Grows Up

Numerous taller wood projects have followed suit in both Canada and the U.S. including Origine, a 13-story  92-unit condominium timber tower in Quebec City,  Carbon 12, an eight-story residential building in Portland Oregon, and Shigeru Ban’s Terrace House in Vancouver, currently under construction.

U.S. developer Hines’ series of T3 taller timber commercial offices, with their open floor plans and exposed wood, is proving to be a winning formula that could very well replace the also-ran templated office complex of the past. They’ve completed a seven-story office in Minneapolis with a sister-design under construction in Atlanta and several other regions in the works including Toronto, Chicago, Denver and even Australia.

Hines’ T3 series of timber offices is a winning formula that could replace the also-ran templated office complex of the past | Photo by Ema Peter and courtesy MGA | Michael Green Architecture and DLR Group

The T3 building standing tall at dusk

This list of U.S. and Canadian buildings doesn’t include the increasing number of new tall wood projects on the boards or in the final design phases, such as the ambitiously sustainable residential project Corvette Landing, or the impressive 40-story residential skyscraper, Canada Earth Tower, proposed by Perkins+Will’s Vancouver office.

Rendering Canada Earth Tower

Perkins+Will’s conceptional design of Canada Earth Tower contemplates a timber skyscraper 40 floors high | Courtesy of Delta Group and Perkins+Will

It’s becoming clear, clients and governments are keen to build with mass timber. In response to this trend, industry professionals are taking the initiative to get up to speed on timber technology through general continuing education (CEUs), along with more specialized  courses on building codes and even one-on-one project support.

This ever-expanding roster of tall wood projects around the world signals a new generation of architectural design and construction practices that takes full advantage of the capabilities of mass timber and helps address the urgent need for more eco-minded ways to build our cities.

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