New Mass Timber Showcase Located in Vancouver, B.C. Scheduled for Substantial Completion in May 2022

A pilot project, whose soft costs are supported in part by Forestry Innovation Investment and Natural Resources Canada, is set for substantial completion by May 2022. The one-of-a-kind light-industrial/commercial building in mid-town Vancouver, B.C. is a four-story, 840-square meter building intended to demonstrate high-performance mass timber construction and design.

The owner of the building, called oN5 (“On Five”), its name refers to its location near the intersection of Ontario Street and West 5th Avenue, is Robert Malczyk, the engineer of record on the project and principal of consulting structural engineers Timber Engineering Inc.

Malczyk says, “There will be light industrial on the ground floor and three levels of offices above, including the headquarters of Timber Engineering.” Malczyk says that oN5 is noteworthy for being built back-to-front on a 25-foot frontage out of slabs of prefab cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels using no posts or beams. And to Passive House standards, too. “It’s the first building of its kind outside of Europe,” said Malczyk. “The method of construction is common only in Europe.”

Malczyk says one of the project’s biggest challenges was its tight sight conditions. “Zero-lot lines to the east and the west created blind conditions that made the external face of the CLT envelope wall panels inaccessible once they were craned into position on-site,” he said. For that reason, air-tight wall assemblies were prefabricated off-site, and structural and envelope connections were completed once the panels had been installed on-site.

Malczyk noted that although the project was challenging, it was a complete success. “We were able to do it cheaper than concrete, too—$475/square foot compared to $500/square foot,” he said.

A team of researchers compared mid-rise buildings using mass timber and conventional concrete and steel building materials. Based on 18 comparisons across four continents, they found that substituting mass timber for conventional building materials reduces construction-phase emissions by 69 percent. The researchers went on to say that if low-carbon construction was scaled up by substituting mass timber for conventional building materials in one-half of expected new urban construction, global emissions can be reduced by as much as nine percent. That would be enough to meet targets for the year 2030 for keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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