Lonely Planet Writer

Vancouver is home to the world's tallest wooden building...for now

Architecture-loving visitors to Western Canada’s biggest city have a lofty new landmark to crane their cameras at, following the opening of the world’s tallest contemporary wooden building.

The world’s tallest wooden building. Image by UBC Public Affairs/brudder/naturallywood.com

Located on Vancouver’s tree-lined University of British Columbia (UBC) campus, the sleek, 53-metre-high Brock Commons Tallwood House student residence welcomed its first intake of 404 upper-level and graduate occupants this fall.  Designed by the city’s Acton Ostry Architects and finished several months ahead of schedule, the mass timber hybrid tower has a concrete base floor and dual concrete cores. But it’s the tree-sourced elements – 17 timber-framed storeys encased in a wood-fibre façade – that enable it to loom over smaller wooden buildings.

Brock Commons during the build. Image by UBC Public Affairs/KK Law/naturallywood.com / CC BY 2.0

Regions around the world are jostling to dominate the fast-growing wooden construction sector, a sustainable building alternative that stores rather than emits carbon dioxide. And while British Columbia’s local government helped fund the new CAD$51 million tower – helping showcase the province’s lumber resources and timber construction skills – the university is also keen to carve a niche in the area.

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“Wood is increasingly recognized as an important, innovative and safe building material choice. This new tall wood building reflects UBC’s leadership in sustainable construction and our commitment to providing our students with more on-campus housing,” university president Santa Ono told the Canadian Press.

But while UBC has several other handsome contemporary wooden buildings worth visiting – including the cavernous AMS Student Nest and airy Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability – it’s innovative new Tallwood House tower won’t be a world record holder for much longer.  Already under construction in Vienna, the 24-storey timber hybrid HoHo Tower – scheduled to include a hotel, apartments and offices – will have risen to an eye-popping 84 meters by the time it’s completed sometime in 2018.     

By John Lee