Home » UBC breaks ground on $180m mass timber campus ‘gateway’

UBC breaks ground on $180m mass timber campus ‘gateway’

by Sion Geschwindt

Construction has begun on the $180m (c.£150m) Gateway Building at the University of British Columbia.

Designed by Perkins&Will and Schmidt Hammer Lassen, the building is intended as a principal point of entry to the UBC campus, one of the largest universities in Canada.

The design of the six-story, 267,000-square-foot mass timber building seeks to balance sustainability, personal well-being, and Indigenous collaboration.

University of british columbia mass timber gateway
(credit: Perkins&Will)

The building will connect two five-story wings with a central daylight-filled six-story atrium, which includes a large interconnecting staircase and lounging spaces.

The choice of mass timber was driven by the importance of timber for the Indigenous Musqueam people on whose territory the UBC campus sits.

Indigenous collaboration

Gerry McGeough, UBC’s director of planning and design, explained in an interview with Canada’s Journal of Commerce: “This was the first capital project where we did what we call ‘deep engagement’ with the Musqueam.

“We went through a whole series of exploratory discussions with them where they defined what their values are they’d like to have embraced in this project.

“The traditional Musqueam house is vertical wood columns with horizontal wood siding, using cedar as the fastener material.

“It was all a system that you could disassemble and move if you wanted to move a house. That relationship of materials from a conceptual point of view is realised in our use of wood in the atrium and around the perimeter.”

University of british columbia mass timber gateway
(credit: Perkins&Will)

The architecture aims to ‘echo the forest’ and is inspired by both the natural Pacific Northwest setting and the surrounding campus. The locally sourced wood dominates the building’s interior and exterior.

With its low embodied carbon properties, mass timber also plays a central role in the scheme’s environmental ambitions.

The project is aiming to be the first building to meet the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building standard and is also targeting LEED Gold certification.

The resulting design is one that looks to hit the three core pillars of Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG).

“Mass timber was sort of a triple word score for us,” added McGeough.

Integrated Modular Systems

The Gateway building is designed as a highly integrated modular and pre-fabricated system. On the upper floors of the building, a hybrid timber structural system allows for long spans to accommodate a diversity of program requirements, now and into the future, said Perkins&Will.

Composite timber and concrete panels will be preassembled offsite and craned in to speed up construction.

The design intent for the façade is to develop a modular panellised envelope compatible with the building structure.

The envelope will be fully pre-fabricated off-site as three-meter wide panels aligned with the timber structural module at the building perimeter.

When complete in 2024, the Gateway building will act as the ‘social heart’ of the campus and surrounding community.

University of british columbia mass timber gateway
Material expression and pre-fabricated construction (credit: Perkins&Will)

Read next: Can timber work hand in hand with MMC?

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