Vancouver Mass Timber School is Seismic Safe

The Bayview Community elementary school is the latest school to use mass timber as the British Columbia provincial government looks to 'CleanBC'

Sun 16 Apr 23


Last week Wood Central reported on the world’s largest earthquake simulator testing mass timber in San Diego.

This week, students at Vancouver’s Bayview Community elementary school are now enjoying new modern earthquake-resilient facilities, thanks to mass timber.

The grand opening celebrations were held on April 13 at the westernmost edge of Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, about two blocks east of the future Jericho Lands development with 18,000 homes according to the DailyHive.

Designed by leading Canadian designer Francl Architecture, Fast + Epp was appointed as structural engineer for the project.

Fast + Epp is driving Mass Timber adoption in Canada

Fast + Epp is at the forefront of the Canadian push towards mass timber adoption, and in 2018 developed a guide for mass timber application.

The Bayview Community project is Fast + Epp’s second mass timber project involving Vancouver School Boards, with the 3000 sqm Sir Matthew Begbie school officially opened in December 2022.

Fast + Epp is a strong supporter of mass timber and was involve in the Sir Matthew Begbie project which was delivered 5 months before the Bayview Community project. Footage courtesy of @Fastepp

According to Nick Bevilacqua, Principal at Fast + Epp:

“Both schools serve as a great example of the potential that can be realised with mass timber construction. In addition to meeting the demands of the seismic mitigation program, the timber framing systems used in these buildings provide warm, inviting spaces for the school community as well as help the school board meet their sustainability objectives.”

Design provides ‘green pathway’ for student safety

For Victoria Jung, chair of the elected trustees at Bayview Community elementary, safety was the primary concern.

“Our top priority for the building has been the safety of students and staff,” said Victoria Jung, chair of the elected trustees of the Vancouver School Board.

“With the construction of this new school, we have not only achieved seismic safety, but also made a commitment to sustainable practices,” she said.

“By utilising innovative technology, we are paving the way for a brighter, greener future for our students and the community in British Columbia.

The project strongly embraced biophilic principles in its design (Photo credit: Francl Architecture)
The project strongly embraced biophilic principles in its design (Photo credit: Francl Architecture)
Cross Laminated Timber featured extensively throughout the building

The two-storey, 3530 sqm building is a mass timber structure using cross-laminated timber products prefabricated by Kalesnikoff Mass Timber & Lumber based at the historic town of Castlegar.

Cross-laminated-timber (or CLT) is gaining popularity as a cost effective and sustainable alternative to steel and concrete in the North American market.

Earlier this month, Wood Central covered the Evergreen Charter School in Hempstead, Long Island New York which also used CLT.

The exterior and structural walls, floors, and roof use CLT while the columns and beams are glulam – all manufactured from spruce pine.

Some of the interior’s mass timber surfaces have been left exposed to create warmth and character for the learning spaces.

As well, two wood heritage components from the previous heritage school building have been incorporated into the new building, including an arched window built in 191, and a set of vestibule doors built in 1929.

The school has capacity for 365 students and features two kindergarten classrooms, 13 classrooms for grades one to seven, two multi-purpose rooms, a library, a large gymnasium, and a neighbourhood learning centre with a pre-school care facility.

Footage provided by Vancouver-based structural engineering firm @FastEpp

The British Columbia provincial government provided $24.5 million for the construction of the new building, which is a complete replacement of the previous 1913-built building.

The previous building — deemed highly seismically unsafe — was demolished in 2019 to enable the construction of the modern building on the same footprint on the east side of the city block, with students temporarily moved to other nearby schools during the years-long construction process.

Mass Timber in schools supports the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030

In October 2021, the British Columbia provincial government released its 2030 carbon roadmap – ‘CleanBC.’

. Footage provided by @ProvinceofBC

‘CleanBC’ is a commitment which supports lowering carbon emissions by 40% over the next seven years – and the government have specifically highlighted the role that low embodied timbers can play in achieving this goal.

According to British Columbia Minister for Trade Jagrup Brar, who headed a mission to the recent International Mass Timber Conference in Portland:

“Mass-timber construction plays an important role in advancing ‘CleanBC’ climate goals by providing a smaller carbon footprint that lasts throughout the life of the building, compared to using concrete.”

And with more projects like the Sir Matthew Begbie and Bayview Community coming online it won’t be long before British Columbia rolls out more mass timber projects in school projects.


  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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