Uses of Wood in the Forest Science Centre

The Forest Sciences Centre was designed as three distinct blocks to meet the B.C. Building Code regulations at the time of construction. These consist of a four-storey laboratory block, a four-storey office block, and a two-storey wood processing centre, all of which surround a large central sky-lit atrium. Each of the three blocks are separated by seismic joints and fire barriers, and have a distinct structure and design that was driven by their specific functional needs.

Office Block  & Laboratory Block Structure 
The office block consists of parallel strand lumber (PSL) beams and columns supporting a floor assembly of engineered wood joists and plywood sheathing topped with concrete.

Centre for Advanced Wood Processing Centre Structure
The Machine Laboratory at the FSC-CAWP Building has gained a lot of publicity recently because it is home to North America’s first robotic CNC Timber Processing Centre, also known as the  Hundegger ROBOT Drive machine.  For more information please visit the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing Centre’s website.

The Atrium
The atrium is a very special showcase of the innovative wood use in the Forest Science Centre.  Large PSL “trees” support the skylight roof to recreate the feel of a forest canopy.  These “trees”, are composed of 13m (42.7ft) tall column “trunks” clustered in groups of four and supporting three dimensional truss “branches”.   The trusses are anchored against the office block and cantilevered towards the lab block. The skylight roof is framed in 3.4m(11.2ft) long wood purlins that span between the transverse PSL roof frames and are sloped to accommodate the different heights of the lab and office blocks.   In addition to the structural columns, the walls of the atrium are lined with Douglas-fir boards, big-leaf maple wood veneer and solid paneling. Finally, the open staircase and raised study areas are made up of tongue & groove Douglas-fir boards.

Walls are framed conventionally with SPF (spruce-pine-fir) dimensional lumber and oriented strand board (OSB) for shear resistance. The processing centre is Douglas-fir glulam beams and columns supporting the exposed wood trusses and I-beams roof. Code limitations and concerns about the transfer of vibrations to and from sensitive laboratory equipment dictated that the laboratory block is a reinforced concrete structure.

Tree Columns
Large tree columns support the skylight of the central atrium. The design intent was to animate the space with a forest canopy like structure to enhance the outdoor feel of this public area. An example of precedent setting capabilities in wood design is illustrated in the development of new connection technology for the Parallam tree column design.

Tree Columns’ Connections
To connect the column “tree” clusters with the “joist branches”, hybrid steel-to-wood connections were employed.  A combination of steel plates in both columns and “branches” were set in place by using timber rivets.  Finally, the actual connection between the column plate and branch plate was achieved by utilizing steel rods.

The Forest Sciences Centre houses world leading capacity in forestry research and education, and the building itself presents an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the use of wood in non-residential construction, to help promote and expand the market for BC wood products. Due to fire regulations within the construction code the most suitable area to exhibit exposed wood construction was in the atrium zone. To further expand the theme of visible wood usage in the project, wood veneer cladding is also used in the atrium space as well as in the main lecture theatre.