Mass timber pilot project to include two Vancouver schools

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Sir Matthew Begbie Elementary School is one of two schools included in a Vancouver mass timber pilot project.

Vancouver, British Columbia—Two elementary schools in Vancouver will be tagged-in for a pilot project which will look at low-rise non-residential wood buildings. British Columbia’s Vancouver School Board District #39 will receive a $1,482,000 investment, which will enable the construction of two local schools as part of recent seismic upgrades to make B.C. schools safer.

“Wood is being used more and more in building bigger and taller buildings, and we’re leading the world at it,” says Seamus O’Regan Jr., Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. “Creating new markets for Canadian timber supports our forestry workers, creates jobs and gets us to net-zero.”

The 2020 National Building Code proposes provisions for the construction of encapsulated mass timber buildings up to 12 storeys, reports the B.C. government. All local B.C. governments were invited to express their interest in adopting these provisions two to three years before the rest of the province with province-wide application anticipated in 2022.

Bayview Elementary School and Sir Mathew Begbie Elementary School are part of the pilot project. The original Bayview structure was demolished to make room for a new school to be built over the existing footprint with greater resistance against earthquakes. The building consists of two-storeys of classrooms and teaching areas, a gymnasium, and a “Neighbourhood Learning Centre.” Sir Mathew Begbie will be a completely new building, designed with open learning spaces. The 34,000 sq. ft. building will be constructed with mass timber as the primary building material. The total carbon benefit will be around 1,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of removing hundreds of cars from the road for a year.

“The Vancouver School Board is delighted to be partnering with Natural Resources Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Education in this exciting project, where two of our schools will be one of the first in Canada to use mass timber in their seismic replacement buildings,” says Carmen Cho, chair of Vancouver School Board. “Incorporating this renewable, sustainable product supports the board’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint.”

Funding for the project is provided through Natural Resources Canada’s Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) Program, which encourages the use of wood in non-traditional construction projects. Currently, the GCWood program isn’t accepting any requests for funding.

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