Wood Undoubtedly the Highlight at Richmond Olympic Oval

The Richmond Olympic Oval was a signature structure for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and is a precedent-setting example of advanced wood engineering and design. The design of the wood roof and its application in a building of this size and significance marks the entry of British Columbia’s wood design and fabrication industry onto the world stage.

The design concept of flow, flight and fusion was inspired by the water of the nearby Fraser River, the wild birds that inhabit its estuary and the careful meshing of forms — curved and linear— where city and nature meet.

For the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the Oval housed a 400-metre speed skating track with temporary capacity for approximately 8,000 spectators. After the Games, the facility was converted to multi-purpose sports use. The main sports hall has become an indoor activity area divided into three sections: ice, court and track and field.

The key architectural focus of the building is the roof structure; the main arches are 14.3 metres apart and span 100 metres over the main hall. They consist of twinned glulam members held at an angle to one another by a steel truss. These arches conceal the building’s mechanical and electrical services in their triangular cores and support a total of 452 WoodWave panels.

The WoodWave system met all the physical criteria and provided superior acoustic performance to the more common perforated metal deck alternative. There was also the additional benefit of greater aesthetic appeal, by virtue of the warm appearance of the filigreed wood ceiling and a roof panel design that conceals the sprinkler system from view.

It’s also been a win for the environment. Because of its low embodied energy, low toxicity and the carbon sequestered within it, wood makes a significant contribution to the environmental performance of the building. The carbon storied in the building is 2,900 metric tonnes of CO2, and the avoided emissions are estimated to be a further 5,900 metric tonnes, hence a total potential carbon benefit of 8,800 metric tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to removing 1600 cars from the road for a year or the energy to power 800 homes.

Kristina Groves, 2008 world cup speed skating champion, said, “To me the roof is the most spectacular part, from the inside it’s like looking up at the stars.”

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Biophilic Design at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver

During the WoodSolutions 2017 tour to North America we visited the offices of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), one of Canada’s most progressive retailers, having embraced a philosophy of corporate, social and environmental responsibility since its creation by a group of students the University of British Columbia in 1971.

Planning for the new head office began in 2008 when it became clear that the company was outgrowing its existing premises. In January 2012, the City of Vancouver approved a rezoning proposal for the construction of a new 10,400 square metre LEED®-certified head office facility in the False Creek Flats area southeast of the city centre. The office was opened in 2014.

The project continues MEC’s commitment to a broad approach to sustainability, incorporating a number of environmentally responsible, resource conserving and biophilic design elements. These include:

  • Natural light: Expansive windows flood the interior with daylight. The narrow floor plan ensures that the majority of the occupied areas receive abundant daylight.
  • Natural materials: Laminated timber beams and columns, joined and braced with steel fittings, make up the building structure. Floor assemblies are made of modular prefabricated nail-laminated timber (NLT) panels.
  • Fresh air: Perimeter windows that open and a system for drawing in and distributing outside air provide fresh air throughout the building.
  • Extensive landscaping: Drought and water-tolerant native plants, situated in and around a series of rain gardens, evoke the site’s ecological history. Logs, boulders and boardwalks give the grounds character.
  • Amenities for employees: Amenities include a storage room for 149 bikes, shower and change facilities, multipurpose room (with a dedicated fitness equipment zone) that will also be available for public events, an indoor climbing ‘cave’, as well as areas to socialise and relax.

The new facility is now home to all MEC’s head office functions, from product design and information technology departments, to human resources and finance, as well as the company’s service centre staff, a total of over 400 employees.

Hugh Cochlin, Principal at Proscenium Architecture + Interiors Inc., said, “We realised that wood could give the space the atmosphere the client wanted; at the same time being the most environmentally responsible choice.”

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Mass Wood for the Masses at UBC

As part of the 2017 WoodSolutions tour to North America it was a special treat to finally see Brock Commons Tallwood Tower in the flesh. Brock Commons Tallwood House is a new 18-storey mass timber hybrid residence that has been built at the University of British Columbia (UBC). At 53m in height, it is currently the tallest mass timber building in the world. The structure, consisting of 5-ply CLT panels supported on glue laminated timber (glulam) columns on a 2.85 x 4.0 metre grid, was erected in an astonishing nine and a half weeks! It will be occupied by the first intake of students by the end of July.

As part of UBC’s mandate to increase student housing on campus, Brock Commons will have capacity for 404 upper year and postgraduate students. Each unit will contain a kitchen and bathroom, with floorplans ranging from single bed studios to 4-bed accommodations. Study and social spaces are located on the ground floor with a student lounge on the 18th floor, where the wood structure has been left exposed for demonstration and educational purposes.

UBC’s building requirements reflect the university’s commitment to sustainability. Wood was chosen in part to reflect this commitment, and the building was also designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. (LEED is similar to Green Star in Australia.)

The project will be a living laboratory in which UBC faculty and postgraduate students, as well as architecture, engineering and forestry practitioners, can collaborate with UBC operational staff and industry partners on the design, development, and construction of tall wood buildings.

It was a joy to be hosted by Russell Acton, Principal at Acton Ostry Architects, the lead architect on the project. He reflected the need to ‘Keep It Simple’, and said that, “A key achievement for the Brock Commons project is the design of an innovative mass timber structural system that is genuinely economically viable, repeatable and adaptable to other building typologies and uses. This project will positively impact the wood, development and building industries in British Columbia.”

It’s an extraordinary building that will undoubtedly be a major step forward in providing a solution to provide mass wood for the masses. I am immensely privileged to have been able to see it.

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And finally a review of my trip….. Wood Solutions tour 2015

I thought I would write a short summary of my time on the Wood Solutions 2015 tour of Italy, Switzerland and Austria.   Firstly I would like to thank Eileen and Andrew and those behind the scenes of TDA NSW and FWPA for organising such a fantastic and educational trip. I would also like to thank our guides for sharing their knowledge and for the patience with a very curious group. Herding cats is a hard job.   The trip was also made very enjoyable by having such a great group of individuals to share the journey and experience with. I am not an architect, engineer or involved in the timber or building industry so thank you for your patience when I asked the occasional dumb question.

As you can see the European Study Tour was amazing!  If anyone is interested in going on any future WoodSolutions Study Tours, please email: Eileen.newbury@fwpa.com.au to register your interest.

So what did I learn?

I need a new camera and a quality wide-angle lens. Next trip. I also had a great time doing some bird watching; kites and choughs were the highlights. Back to timber.

Timber is very versatile and can be used in a great variety of forms and for many purposes. We know it is beautiful and we know it is sustainable and great for our health. Modern computer technology has introduced the potential for computer aided design (CAD) and CNC systems that allow for timber to be formed into a myriad of shapes and forms. The photo of the French installation at the Milan Expo sums it up. Some of the structures we saw were vast with huge spans created by using glulam, some were much simpler constructions of CLT or glulam and usually in the form of a hybrid with concrete. CLT can be used in simple but very energy efficient houses and should be part of our regular building design.

The complexity of modern timber

The complexity of modern timber

Building in timber is part of the culture in the areas visited during our trips. We drove through many towns and villages where timber had been used for a very long time and it was evident many of the buildings were quite old. This was interspersed with new structures such as glulam barns, and we even stopped at a motorway restaurant (Landzeit Kammern) made of glulam. We were told off for taking photos inside so I can only show you a rather dull outside shot. Construction in timber is common and engineered timber is creating great opportunities for design and development.

Glulam restaurant

When I mention to fellow Australians about large timber buildings I usually get asked about fire resistance. Ask the same question of those in the industry in Europe and there is a bit of a roll of the eyes as they are so used to the question and then out comes all the vast amount of testing that has been done. Be assured that there has been a lot of testing of engineered timber and its use in buildings. A lot of the information is on line or available from those involved in the industry, we should be embracing timber construction not resisting it.

Dalston Lane a significant timber structure

Dalston Lane a significant timber structure

 

From a building perspective the designs obviously reflect the local conditions, built solidly and to last. Doors and windows are triple glazed and very much sealed against the elements; rooves are sloped, with ridges to hold snow for insulation but not too much.   Inappropriate development in the regions was also not approved of as strict standards were employed to maintain the viability of the countryside. I think there are a few lessons we can learn.

The landscape and forestry

Our travels through northern Italy, Switzerland and Austria showed us some amazing countryside, mountains and forests. It was autumn and the display of colours was fantastic. My knowledge of the deciduous species was still quite good but I also learned to recognise spruce and larch from their shapes and colours (thank you Erkki). The landscape is very heavily forested and interspersed with small farms. Forestry and the use of trees is very much integrated within the culture. Caring for and managing of the forests is part of the farming and regional cultures. As one of our hosts stated, “we have been doing this for 500 years”. PEFC certification is the norm but FSC certification is rising to meet the expectation of UK customers.

 

Deciduous and Coniferous forest

Deciduous and Coniferous forest

Forests and Frams

Forests and Farms

It is important for those that live in the regions that the trees are managed well and harvested when appropriate (usually 60-70 years of age). There is very much a stewardship approach to the landscape at a local level and the harvesting of trees is seen as an important source of timber, energy generation and employment. To not harvest trees would appear to be a strange philosophy. There are some important insights into a sustainable culture.

Energy

In the mountains one source of energy generation was surprisingly absent, that of wind power, this was reserved for the lowlands. We did however see a lot of small-scale hydro and PV solar. What was also clear was that biomass energy in a range of forms was very common to supply heat and power to many rural communities. This was obviously supplemented with log fires and some very high quality stacking.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog and the journey. I have learned a lot.

What a landscape

What a landscape

 

 

 

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CLT day – Stora Enso – Kindergarten and passive house design 151015

For those of you following my blog you will know that this was an intensive but very enjoyable study trip. Last night’s stay was at the Hotel Moselebauer in Bad St Leonhard. No sooner had we dumped our suitcases than we had to head to a meeting room for a presentation from Gernot Weiss the sales manager at the local Stora Enso factory and Raimund Baumgartner a local “carpenter”. This to me was a redefinition of carpenter as his latest project was a 9-storey CLT apartment in Trondheim. Raimund described his work and how he and his small team have taken on the challenge of CLT construction and now are involved in many projects. Their work starts with the formwork for the concrete as they have exacting standards and then through to completion of the CLT construction. Thank you for your time. Oh and of course Raimund mentioned he had also built the hotel we were staying in.

Moselebauer Hotel

Moselebauer Hotel

 

Our hosts for the visit were Gernot and Erkki Valikangas the Stora Enso sales manager for Australia. Thank you for your hard work for the day.

Stora Enso factory

Our first visit of the next day was to the Stora Enso factory in Bad St Leonhard.   The rain for the day was quite heavy but it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. Stora Enso is a big company, with some 27,000 employees worldwide and A$15 billion worth of sales. The company is not just about timber and timber products but covers paper, packaging and biomaterials. Check out their website I find the biomaterials development work particularly fascinating.

The company has quite a bit of history, the Swedish copper mining company Stora Kopparberg (“great copper mountain”) in Falun was granted a charter from King Magnus IV of Sweden in 1347, although the first share in the company (granting the Bishop of Västerås 12.5% ownership) dates from 1288. Some claim this to be the oldest existing corporation or limited liability company in the world. You can of course read more on Wikipedia.

The factory at Bad St Leonhard produces a lot of timber, an awful lot of timber, including 70,000m3 of CLT (total CLT capacity of 2 mills is 140,000m3) and some 320,000 tonnes of biomass pellets. It is worth noting that at all the places we have visited and along our travels it is clear that energy from biomass is really common. The industry wastes nothing so anything that is left over is processed and often that is for biomass energy. Driving through villages in Switzerland and Austria it is not uncommon to see small biomass plants supplying a local village.

The CLT production for a single house is 50m3 to 60m3 and is actually where most of the CLT production goes, including over to Finland for creation of modular systems. To quantify the volume produced, the CLT used in the Library at the Docks (Melbourne) was only one day’s production. The library is quite a substantial building so the opportunity for more equivalent buildings certainly exists.

The log yard

The log yard

Our visit to the log yard and timber mill quantified just how much timber is generated through the plant and the range of products. Even in Australia Stora Enso has 5 warehouses.

Cut timber awaiting processing

Cut timber awaiting processing

The local timber history dates back to 1885 with the start of a small mill.

The CLT plant opened in 2008, and now produces a range of panels, up to 16m x 2.95m x 36cm and either 3, 5 or 7 layers. The products also come in three grades visible, industrial visible and non-visible.

Logs for the mill come from within 100km and are processed down to planks of various dimensions, checked for their quality and dried to the required moisture content. Quality and traceability of all components is key to a good product and this is very clear when walking through the factory.

After the necessary quality checks the longitudinal planks are planed, finger jointed and joined to the required length and the panel glued using polyurethane glue or EPI glue at the edges. This panel is layered with glue and the cross laminate planks added before another longitudinal panel is added. Obviously this is how the 3, 5 or 7 layers are built up.  Sorry no photos of this bit – top secret.

Quality inspection

Quality inspection

More quality checks

More quality checks

The panels are then cut and planed with the CNC machines to deliver the finished product. The process once again was very logical and of a high quality delivering a constant line of production from the plant.

Of note is that schools are now regular users of CLT, great news as our recent report demonstrated the learning and health benefits of using a timber construction. To add to the sustainability credentials of the CLT it is being tested for use in wind turbine towers.

Kindergarten visit

From the factory we headed out on the bus yet again to visit a Kindergarten being constructed by a local company Doka. Doka is an international producer and supplier of prefabricated formwork used in concrete pouring. The Doka Group has a worldwide workforce of approx. 5,970 with some 2,500 employed locally. I have to apologise to readers that I didn’t take my good camera with me so can only offer a somewhat distorted shot taken with my GoPro.

Inside the kindergarten

Inside the kindergarten

This was a solid construction a hybrid of concrete and CLT to demonstrate the use of wood and concrete by Doka. This is a small kindergarten for 15 children of employees, the carers and offices above. This is very much a showcase for the company to demonstrate their use of materials. As I said this is a solid building, which is being built with every attention to detail. Insulation, heating, and sound proofing will be of the highest quality. Some of the CLT panels were of a visual grade so care was being taken not to damage them. Also visible was that the panels had been predrilled in the factory to allow threading of cables and insertion of power points. These can be seen in the vertical panel in the centre left of the above picture.  A really simple but very effective hybrid construction.

Low cost passive housing

Back on the bus for our final visit, I have to admit by this stage my brain had begun to get full and needed a bit of time to process all I had seen. The weather was getting quite chilly and we were unable to access the buildings. However, the photos show most of the required information. This was a low cost construction for ‘entry level’ housing. Each block contains two homes and is a CLT construction with polystyrene insulation, triple glazed windows and doors and no heating or cooling. These are passive houses, fast to build and designed to have very high thermal efficiency. The pink blocks are designed to house shutters which clearly are hidden away when up but fit snuggly as another layer to prevent heat loss. The area can get down to -20°C so the houses are designed to be efficient with a built in heat recovery system to allow for fresh air to enter in. The doors and windows are substantial like many of the builds we encountered with very solid thick triple glazing. This is a bit experimental for the builders the final product being rendered. The CLT allows a rapid construction time in a matter of weeks followed by the polystyrene insulation and render.

Passive housing

Passive housing

2 house block

2 house block

CLT house

CLT house

Insulation blocks

Insulation blocks

A great example of CLT housing and how to build very functional homes rapidly and for a lower cost. It would be great to see similar constructions in Australia.

 

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Glulam -WIEHAG day – industrial build – factory visit and Wels exhibition hall 141015

After a night in Salzburg and experiencing the local Wiener Schnitzel (very nice) at the Old Fox we headed out early to experience a day learning more about the capabilities of glulam. Our guide for the day was Johannes Rebhahn of WIEHAG, thank you for your time and patience during the day, sometimes I know it was like herding cats.

 

Porsche distribution centre

Porsche distribution centre

Our first stop was at a new Porsche-VW distribution centre for the region. This is a very typical project demonstrating the use of glulam beams. The building has a concrete base and precast concrete beams produced locally covering a total area of 9000m2. The main beams are some 15m in length with spans of 7.5m between columns. The secondary beams are actually longer at 22m. The roof, which was being rapidly swung into place, is OSB panels with roof joists. The glulam being used was normal strength glulam of an industrial quality i.e., not of a high visual grade. The range of joints used is visible in the photos, neoprene once again being used at the point of contact between timber and concrete. Most of the structure was prefabricated offsite including positioning of connectors. The whole timberwork will take 5 men only 6 weeks, to build.

 

Roof panels being lifted into position

Roof panels being lifted into position

Inside showing posts, beams and connections

Inside showing posts, beams and connections

Beam connections

Beam connections

Of note is that this is regarded as a typical and very regular construction, there is nothing complicated about this and the very rapid build time is clearly a great benefit.

WIEHAG Factory

The WIEHAG factory is headquartered in Altheim, Upper Austria, and has over 160 years of experience in timber construction. Founded in 1849 as a small carpentry shop, WIEHAG is now one of the leading providers of bearing systems, roofs and glulam products. With around 300 employees, WIEHAG generates annual sales of roughly €77 million, with an export rate of around 75%. The production volume is currently 85,000m3 pa. The focus is glulam especially curved and complex projects.

The factory was a fascinating experience and having spent many years in manufacturing industries I always enjoy seeing the assembly of products. The tour started with a lunch and slide show of the capabilities of WIEHAG including the new rail station in Canary Wharf London and a 50m beam used in the Bangor leisure centre. Imagine the transporting of that 50m beam, I am sure no sharp turns were involved. A quick look at the references page on their website will show you some of the projects. The longest beams have been the 50m length and 2.5m deep. All products are PEFC certified and now FSC is being added as an option. Larch is also available as an option and provides a redder colour to the product

The business has been making glulam products since the 1950s. Projects include an exhibition hall at Karlsruhe involving 600m3 of timber; Audi is a big customer, and the Wels exhibition hall, which is discussed later, has a 90m free span. Other projects include University of reading Library, Tesco (UK) warehouses, garden centres, Spar group centre, top tower Bavaria and a speed skating hall in Eilat Israel with a 105m diameter.   All products for projects are designed in house and as much work is done as possible in the factory including fixing plates.

The factory takes spruce boards, racks them and then kiln dries them. These are then processed into the factory where they are quality graded, planed and then finger jointed into the required length for the glulam sections. Every piece is quality checked for colour and cracks. Quality checking includes an x-ray examination for faults. The lengths of board are then glued together and compressed in a series of clamps until the glue dries. The clamps also provide the ability to bend and shape the sections to the required curvature.   Once the large boards of glulam are glued and dried they are passed through a CNC machine to provide any additional cuts for the project. The beams then have any additional fixings added prior to packing and shipment. It is worth noting that the factory structure is glulam exhibiting its capabilities.

Boards waiting for processing

Boards waiting for processing

Stacked panels - not the glulam factory roof

Stacked panels – note the glulam factory roof

 

Finished product in section

Finished product in section

From what I could see the manufacturing process was not overly complex but was incredibly efficient well planned and used cutting edge technology (CNC) to refine the product as required. This was a very efficient factory delivering a high quality and very flexible product. Just have a look at their website to see what a versatile product glulam can be.

Wels exhibition Centre

After our visit to the factory we headed out again to the Wels exhibition centre currently housing a large camping and caravan show. This is a large/ very large hall covering some 16,000m2 and using 5,500m3 of timber. This was a project, which involved a high degree of prefabrication and consequently a short construction time.

 

90m arches

90m arches

Our first visit in the hall was to observe the roof above the large glulam arches of the main halls. These open halls have spans of 90 meters, achieved by using two massive curved glued laminated timber arches as a top chord and a post tensioned timber bottom chord with struts from steel tension cables.

Inside the big hall

Inside the big hall

The 90m span was made out of two smaller spans of 46m, the near maximum size which could be prefabricated. The large size required a specialised transport system for the 46m lengths, 5.85m width and weight of some 43 tonnes. Moved at night the route required a 40m turn and necessitated the removal of traffic lights and rail barriers. Four cranes were required to lift these beams into place and the construction was completed in 5 months.

The foyer - glulam

The foyer – glulam

The roof inside

The roof inside

A view inside

A view inside

Looking down the foyer

Looking down the foyer

 

The exhibition hall is massive and a real tribute to the capabilities of glulam. The whole building is further insulated, with triple glazing and blinds to manage the light input. This is a classic example of how glulam constructions can be used for large arenas and warehouses, with the prefabrication permitting a fast construction time.

  •  Architecture: AT4 Architekten ZT GmbH
  • Structural analysis: DI Georg Hochreiner
  • Construction: STRABAG, DYWIDAG, and WIEHAG
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Commercial CLT construction and visit to Binderholz offices 131015

Last night we stayed in the Old Town district of Innsbruck a rather charming Austrian City with many historic buildings. For some of us Innsbruck will also be remembered for the size of the fried chicken portions.

From Innsbruck we headed into the country to visit a commercial building being developed near to the town of Maria Alm. This is a simple construction employing a hybrid design of concrete, steel, CLT and glulam. Our host was Michael Quehenberger of Binderholz, the suppliers of the CLT and also suppliers of CLT to Dalston Lane project mentioned earlier in this blog.

Binderholz CLT

Binderholz CLT

Commercial CLT build

Commercial CLT build

Concrete Structure and CLT panels waiting for addition

Concrete Structure and CLT panels waiting for addition

Timber inside

Timber inside

An impressive view

An impressive view

This build is a commercial project of some 500m3 of CLT and involving a 4-week construction time for the project. The construction is simple employing CLT panels along with glulam beams along with concrete posts and panels. The photos very much show the project and how it has been constructed. Not all CLT is equal as there are variations in the grades and thickness depending on the requirements of the panel and whether it is to be covered or not. Some of the panels in this construction will be left exposed and for these the surfaces have been brushed to provide a slight 3D effect from the growth rings.

Brushed CLT

Brushed CLT

Following the site visit we met up with the Binderholz team at their Hallein offices. Binderholz are a significant supplier of CLT to the global market with their know how marketed under the BBS (Binderholz Building Systems) name. A wealth of information is available online and in downloadable formats.

Binderholz is not just about CLT as they operate a very typically integrated Austrian business with some 1200 employees. The business produces biomass pellets and prefabricated systems. The CLT is available in different grades for visual (or not) and industrial options with two lines, one for ceilings and floors and the other for structural panels. The panels have both fire and acoustic certification/ ratings. With plasterboard the panels are fire tested for 90 minutes, showing the system not only retards the fire but also reduces the heat transmission.

The acoustic/ sound testing is also extensive including direct and indirect transmission with reports available on line including the impact of additional insulation.

Some of their significant projects have been schools including Preston Manor, Hilden Grange and Furness Academy.

Thought I would also include this rather impressive rocking chair, just needed a pillow for my head and it would have been perfect.

A CLT rocking Chair

A CLT rocking chair

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