From the get-go, the City of Vancouver, BC Housing, and the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency all agreed that Vienna House would make use of “prefabricated wall, floor, and ceiling components constructed off-site from renewable materials.”
The construction industry is increasingly aware of the relatively high embodied emissions, not to mention costs, associated with concrete and steel. As a result, industry is finding new applications for a material we’ve been working with for millennia: wood.
Many manufacturers now engineer wood into structural panels, columns, and beams. Suppliers of these components manufacture them in factories to precise tolerances, then ship them to the job site—where construction partners fasten them together. There are pros and cons to the approach, but it generally means projects go up faster than traditional builds, with more efficient use of labour and materials.
Boots on the Ground
The Vienna House project team went on a field trip to see what some of the mass-timber facilities in British Columbia have on offer. UBC’s Centre for Advanced Wood Processing and the University of Northern British Columbia sponsored the tour, with funding support from Forest Innovation Investment and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The sponsors conceived the trip as a way to give the Vienna House team a chance to see products, learn, and ask questions. The organizers encouraged direct collaboration between suppliers and the designers, which traveled for three days via chartered coach bus. They visited various sites and saw the most recent advances.
Here’s a quick recap of where they went, what they saw, and what they learned.
Mitsui Home Canada, Township of Langley
Mitsui Home Canada (MHC) is a manufacturing company with a large facility in the Township of Langley. The company employs 75 people and specializes in prefabricated walls, stairs, elevator shafts, and floors for single-family and multiple-unit residential buildings.
- Since beginning its wall, floor and stair panel business in 2005, the company has supplied more than 9,000 homes throughout British Columbia and the United States
- MHC processes more than 60 million board feet of lumber annually
- Recent project: Parklane Homes, Langley
Nicola Logworks, Merritt
Nicola Logworks (NL) has operated its production site in the Nicola Valley since 1989. The company deals with numerous timber projects. These range from modest log homes to heavy timber services for massive, engineered wood installations.
- Clients in Canada, the United States, and Japan
- Early adopter of computer numerical control technology
- Use a log building robot (affectionately known as ABBy), a 3D log scanner and computer modeling for increased speed and efficiency
- The company has recently begun to focus on affordable market housing projects
- Notable project: UBC Earth Sciences Building, Vancouver
Photo: The Daizen team is all smiles for a group photo
Daizen Joinery, Kamloops
Established 1990, Daizen Joinery operates out of a 20,000 square foot shop in Kamloops. The company works with joinery and woodworking experts and partners with designers and manufacturers of timber frame buildings and homes.
- Daizen has clients in Western Canada, California, and Hawaii
- The company uses kiln-dried cedar and Douglas fir, and vacuum kilns to reduce shrinkage, checking, and warping
- Electric operation
- Recent project: Jacob Residence, Revelstoke
Spearhead Timberworks, Nelson
Spearhead Timberworks designs and fabricates architectural timber. Their 30,000 square foot facility in Nelson houses full-service millwork and timber-frame shops, and features CNC manufacturing and milling equipment.
- Spearhead serves clients across North America
- The company supplies structural timber, panelized wall and roof assemblies and millwork, and finishing materials
- The company uses Building Information Modelling software to achieve fabrication-level digital models that interface directly with Computer Numerical Control machinery
- Notable project: Emily Carr pavilion, Vancouver
Kalesnikoff Lumber, Castlegar
Kalesnikoff Lumber is a fourth-generation family-owned company. The firm’s 110,000 square foot plant produces glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT) product lines.
photo: Inside the mass timber facility at Kalesnikoff
- Kalesnikoff employs about 170 workers.
- The company covers the full timber value chain; it plants tree seedlings (360 hectares in 2021) and processes lumber in its sawmill, to mass timber production.
- Kalesnikoff has one of only three Cross Laminated Timber presses in the world
- Notable project: Olds College, Olds BC
In operation since 1962, Structurlam has developed mass timber products for clients around the world. Its production facilities are located in Penticton.
- Structurlam helped build some of North America’s most high-profile mass timber structures, including the 18-storey UBC Brock Commons building, and Carbon12 in Portland, Oregon.
- The company has assembly, fabrication, milling, and pre-finishing facilities.
- The firm’s in-house design studios work with architects and engineers to coordinate connection details, and penetrations for plumbing and HVAC
- Recent Project: Trout Lake Arena, Vancouver.
Though the Vienna House design team has yet to contract out a specific mass-timber supplier, the tour offered project partners a window into many of the options available around the province. Lessons learned by the tour’s participants will help identify mass timber and prefabrication wood panel options for Vienna House.
Stay tuned for more details on the Vienna House Project Team’s chosen materials.