Brock Commons

B.C. wood high-rise is the talk of Asia

#BCForestFuture series: Structurlam of Penticton has builders and engineers asking questions in Japan and China

TSUKUBA, JAPAN – The completion of an 18-storey student residence tower at UBC has caught the attention of Japanese architects and engineers, raising the profile of a Penticton-based company and B.C.’s wood industry as a whole.

The wood hybrid structure called Brock Commons uses cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels built around a concrete foundation and towers that house elevators. It has redefined how Asian builders see the potential of wood, and spurred their work to test the limits of wood-frame construction.

A B.C. forest industry trade mission visited the Building Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan and toured a pair of test buildings, a six-storey conventional frame structure and a modern-style home with overhangs and suspensions designed to stress-test CLT panels.

On the trade mission was Randy Pratt, president of B.C. housing developer Adera Capital Corp., parent company of Structurlam Products, which produced components for Brock Commons at its plants in Penticton and Okanagan Falls.

Adera Capital Corp. president Randy Pratt at Building Research Institute, Tsukuba, Japan, Nov. 28, 2016. (Story continues below.)

The company started in 1962, where it pioneered the “glulam” beams that became a familiar sight in B.C. school gymnasiums and other public buildings. Japan, with its centuries-old tradition of post-and-beam wood construction, has been a key export customer from the start.

Structurlam engineered wood components are also used in striking wood structures including the Richmond Olympic Oval, UBC Okanagan’s fitness centre in Kelowna, the Mica Heli-Ski Lodge at Revelstoke, Armstrong Arena and Elkford Community Hall.

The Penticton location has been a good base for expansion.

“The real fit there is a combination of fibre, people and freight,” Pratt said. “We draw Douglas fir from the Kootenays and SPF [spruce-pine-fir] from the north, and a lot of talent in the South Okanagan for production and design, and we have the ability to truck and rail anywhere in North America.”

While “tall wood” towers are catching on around the world, the big market for B.C. wood products is in single-family and mid-rise housing, and a fast-growing market for resorts.

The western Canadian look of engineered beams and high windows is popular in the western U.S., as well as Alberta and B.C. And it is catching on in China, the biggest consumer market in the world.

China is a tough market for Structurlam, but Pratt says they’ve had some success with resort and golf course clubhouses, and large recreation centres for housing developments like the one Adera is building at its South Ridge Club townhouse complex in South Surrey.

“Those sort of high-profile trophy projects allow you to advertise and market the product and the brand,” he said. “The objective really is the larger market of simple, repeatable mid-rise commercial and residential projects. That’s the heart of the market.”

As for high-rise wood buildings, Structurlam has a proposal in the works for a 21-storey lakefront condo tower in its home town of Penticton.

“It’s early days and we’re keeping our fingers crossed, but it’s one of many tall wood projects on the boards in Canada and the U.S.,” Pratt said.

 

Just Posted

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

Doukhobor Heritage Society seeks zoning change for water plant

Questions remain on how taking 500,000 litres a day from aquifer would affect local water supply

Can the Arrow Lakes ecosystem be restored?

With cooperation and coordination, a local environmental group says it can

Judgment reserved in Nakusp school sex trial

Trial concluded today with lawyer’s summations

Former teacher acquitted on two of four sex charges

Judge found no evidence to support sexual assault charges against Shanny McIvor

Testing the Google Arts & Culture app

Going face to face with art

Man faces 48 charges in string of random Toronto shootings

The string of unprovoked shootings began Jan.9, say police

‘Shape of Water’ producer, Christopher Plummer among Canadian Oscar nominees

Guillermo del Toro film about merman romance earns 13 nominations

Canada, TPP agrees to revised deal without the United States

Canada and the remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed to a revised trade agreement

Tsunami warnings 101: Canada

Here are some things to know about tsunami alerts in Canada and how they work

Rogers Media cuts ties with Vice Canada

Rogers Media and Vice Canada are ending their three-year-old partnership, pulling Viceland TV channel off the air

VIDEO: Fuel truck and train collide in B.C. causing massive fire

More emergency crews are still arriving on scene of a massive fire at the Port Coquitlam rail yard.

Back to work: U.S. government shutdown ends after Democrats relent

Short-term spending measure means both sides could see another shutdown stalemate in three weeks

Most Read