It wasn’t long ago when a 6-storey building made of wood was considered “tall”. Today, mass timber "woodscrapers" are sprouting up in cities around the globe. There are even plans for a 1,148-feet-tall, 70-storey, timber tower to be complete in Tokyo in 2041. For now, however, the record for tallest hybrid wood tower is held by UBC Tallwood House (Brock Commons), the groundbreaking 53 meter, 18-storey student residence built by Urban One in 2017.

Brock Commons could not have been built under the traditional Design-Bid-Build method. We were embarking on a project that was completely different and we had no preconceived notions on how to achieve our goals. This required an openness of ideas and a commitment to collaboration across many disciplines. The entire team understood that we had to find the best solutions well ahead of the start of construction or the project would never break ground.



17 floors of mass timber super-structure were erected in only nine and a half weeks - a construction pace that shaved 40 per cent off of an already tight schedule.


In the design and preconstruction phase, comprehensive 3D and 4D models were used as both Virtual Design and Construction Models (VDC). The models included structure, building envelope, mechanical and electrical systems, interior finishes and sequencing. The VDC Model was a key communication tool as it was ‘owned’ by all participants. This multi-disciplinary approach up front gave us the opportunity to try out different design and construction options and go back to the drawing board to resolve problems prior to the start of construction.

The VDC model was used to create a full-scale, 2-storey proof-of-concept mock-up to test and validate the design viability and constructibility. The mock-up provided an opportunity to study constructibility and installation feasibility, test communication procedures for prefabrication, select installation equipment, and identify options for efficiencies. Having a fabrication model and virtual construction sequence (versus a typical Revit model) also established mechanical penetrations before we got to site, allowing for a better pace throughout. These combined experiences and knowledge informed the construction planning, including sequencing and prefabrication assembly packages. It was all of this early pre-planning that set us up for success at Brock Commons.


Architect Shigeru Ban’s 19-storey, mixed-use project is slated to become one of North America’s tallest hybrid timber structures when completed in early 2022.
Urban One continues to be leaders in the mass timber, high-rise construction field with Terrace House. This 223 ft tall, high end, residential building features a mass timber structure with exposed wood columns and beams. Once again, Virtual Design and Construction modeling (VDC) played an important role in the early stages of this project with progressive iterations of schedule and budget being created with the design assist trade contractors. Together with our VDC partner, Urban One and the trade contractors prepared a complete virtual build of the project including approximately 500 required design finalization details. A Visual Mock-Up (VMU) and a Performance Mock-Up (PMU) were also constructed to test all building envelope criteria and finishing details. It is this kind of early planning and attention to the smallest details that leads to success in the field.