SOURCE: Fast+Epp


August 09, 2016 20:01 ET

Fast+Epp: World's Tallest Wood Building -- One Step Closer to Completion Today

Innovative Construction Blends LEGO™-Like Modularity With Concrete-Like Strength of Cross Laminated Timber

VANCOUVER, BC--(Marketwired - August 09, 2016) - Today, the final wood panel is being installed in the UBC Brock Commons building by lead engineer Paul Fast of Fast+Epp Structural Engineers bringing the building one step closer to becoming the world's tallest timber structure when it opens mid-2017. Thanks to three engineering features spearheaded by the engineering team, the University of British Columbia's newest student residence overcame regulatory resistance and broke down numerous barriers standing in the way of using wood as the primary material in future mid-rise buildings in North America. There is a surge in US interest in using wood for large office and apartment buildings spurring Fast+Epp to recently expand operations into the US with offices in Seattle and New York.

The UBC Brock Commons building is an engineering achievement that can be attributed first to simplicity; second to modularity; and, third to the use of cross laminated timber (CLT). The result is a building design that is simple to replicate, cost-efficient due to shortened timelines and environmentally desirable. With some modifications it could be used for commercial, residential and other applications.

"We pushed ourselves relentlessly over months of work with the design team and the CLT manufacturer to simplify the structure -- think LEGO™," says Paul Fast, Founder of Fast+Epp. "The building blends the simplicity and modularity of LEGO™ with the concrete-like strength of cross laminated timber to help ensure structural efficiency which in the past has been one of the major barriers to building tall with wood. Our solutions effectively address that concern."

In order to make the case to government to grant a special exception to the local wood building code to permit eighteen storeys, Fast+Epp -- most famously known for its award-winning work on the world's longest spanning hybrid wood roof for the Richmond Olympic Oval constructed for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games -- along with the entire UBC Brock Commons design team needed to remove as many barriers to a 'yes' vote as possible.

The simplicity of the structural design means that this fresh approach eliminates the need for the usual supporting beams -- just flat timber panels stacked on wood posts are being used. Achieving the high degree of modularity and connectivity ensures optimal manufacturing efficiency and speedy construction -- in fact, faster than concrete or steel construction. The cross laminated timber -- a recent innovation that has been proven to be strong and dimensionally stable with favourable fire resistance qualities so that it can compete with concrete and steel -- delivers optimal environmental benefits.

"Brock Commons represents a significant step forward in the evolution of tall wood buildings," said Jennifer Cover, PE, Executive Director of the U.S. WoodWorks program. "The extensive modeling, testing and engineering done for this project have generated knowledge and understanding of wood systems that pushes North America to the forefront of innovation, as will the design team's living laboratory approach. But beyond the fact that it's the tallest contemporary wood building, beyond the carbon benefits, and beyond the achievement of erecting a floor each week, is a remarkably elegant structural design. It's a marriage of innovation and simplicity that's truly inspirational."

Fire safety is the other major barrier when regulators consider wood construction, even though timber has proven to be is a safer material than steel given that charred wood surfaces protect the structural wood underneath. A number of solutions have been built-in to UBC Brock Commons to address any concerns. The building will have an automatic sprinkler system with a back-up water supply. Highly compartmentalized residence units will limit the potential spread of fire. The units are designed with a two-hour fire separation.

The UBC Brock Commons project is only the latest example of Fast+Epps's boundary-breaking. The firm has gained a world-wide reputation for using wood and wood products to push the boundaries of wood construction in surprising and aesthetically compelling ways. The iconic and international award-winning Richmond Olympic Oval features Fast+Epp's work on the heron-inspired roof which is the longest hybrid wood span roof in the world. In the fall of 2015 on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the International Association of Sports and Leisure Facilities (IAKS), the Oval received the "All Time Award" from IAKS and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- an award reserved for landmark sports facilities from the past half-century. The All Time Award will not be awarded again until 2065.

While there are numerous other ambitious tall timber structure projects under consideration around the world -- Paris, Vienna, for instance -- the UBC Brock Commons building in Vancouver will be the tallest building in the world to be completed.

Established in 1985, Fast+Epp has won over 90 national and international awards for work done on an extensive variety of public and private projects including residential, commercial, institutional and transit with a particular focus on combining wood, concrete and steel materials in unique ways that often push boundaries to achieve sound structure with exceptional design. With offices in Seattle, New York, Edmonton and Frankfurt Germany, the Vancouver-based firm is leaving its mark in the built environment by combining materials to form architecturally expressive structures and to add value whenever possible by having structural components do more than simply support loads.

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