Canadian Consulting Engineer

Fast + Epp specs mass timber for new Vancouver schools

March 17, 2021

The pilot project also involves upgrading earthquake resistance.

Sir Matthew Begbie Elementary School construction

Gymnasium during construction of Sir Matthew Begbie Elementary School. Photo by Bright Photography, courtesy Naturally:Wood.

Fast + Epp is providing structural engineering services for a Vancouver School Board (VSB) pilot project that will combine mass timber construction with updated earthquake resistance for the board’s Bayview and Sir Mathew Begbie Elementary Schools in the city’s District #39.

British Columbia’s ministry of education is providing nearly $47 million, while nearly $1.5 million is coming from Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan’s) Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) program, which encourages the use of wood in non-traditional construction projects (including low-rise non-residential). The building material’s benefits reportedly include reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping Canada reach its climate change goals and supporting local value-added manufacturing with regard to British Columbia’s forestry sector. The seismic upgrades, meanwhile, are in line with modern building codes’ safety requirements.

“We’ve done physical testing with the University of British Columbia (UBC) of the cross-laminated timber (CLT) bearing walls and lateral systems that will be used in these schools,” says Carla Dickof, P.Eng., associate with Fast + Epp, which is working with HCMA Architecture + Design. “CLT shear walls are certified to national standards and building codes and we have used them on multiple projects. Theses panels will extend two storeys.”

Bayview’s original structure has already been demolished, making way for the new school to be built on the same footprint, with two storeys of classrooms, teaching areas, a gym and a neighbourhood learning centre. Sir Mathew Begbie, on the other hand, is a completely new 34,000-sf design with open learning spaces. Both builds are intended to set the stage for further mass-timber schools in the future.

“These two schools serve as a great example of the potential that can be realized with mass timber construction,” says Nick Bevilacqua, P.Eng., principal with Fast + Epp. “In addition to meeting the demands of the seismic mitigation program, the timber framing systems used in these buildings will provide warm, inviting spaces.”


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