The mass-timber buildings “Platforms for life” allow residents to adapt their living space to their personal needs – time and time again. The deeply integrated ecosystem of design engineering, technology and precision manufacturing is also sustainable in every other way. This achievement was made possible by decades of research.
Canada is a land of forests. About 3.5 million square kilometers, or 38 percent of the country, is woodland. This puts Canada in third place worldwide; only Russia and Brazil have more. About 95 percent of Canadian forests are publicly owned and sustainably managed. The timber industry contributed some USD 23 billion to Canada’s economy in 2016, accounting for about 7 percent of the nation’s exports and providing over 210,000 jobs. Nearly half of the companies in the wood industry are engaged in the production of wood products and over a third are in the paper and paper products sector. The remaining roughly 20 percent is accounted for by forestry and timber transport.
Oliver Lang (left) is principal and creative director of Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture (LWPAC) and president of Intelligent City, both based in Vancouver, Canada. Born in Germany, he studied architecture at the Technical University in Berlin, Germany, and at the Escuela Superior de Arquitectura in Barcelona, Spain. Lang holds a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University and was a lecturer and professor at several colleges and universities for 15 years, including Princeton, Columbia, the Southern California Institute of Architecture and the University of British Columbia.
He founded LWPAC with the architect Cynthia Wilson in 1999. The firm creates highly integrated and generative mixed-use housing systems and cultural projects. Among its many accolades, in 2008 LWPAC received the Governor General’s Medal, Canada’s highest recognition for the design of a built project, and from 2014 to 2016 three Urban Design Awards of the City of Vancouver.
In 2006, when Oliver Lang, Cynthia Wilson, and the LWPAC team attempted to build ROAR_one – an early predecessor to the project which has now received the LafargeHolcim Award Silver North America – they experienced that it can be hard to find contractors with knowhow that goes beyond the construction of typical residential structures of a few stories. The result: LWPAC decided on tabula rasa, completely rethought all their approaches and construction methods, and took a great financial risk. The architectural firm made virtue out of necessity and started Intelligent City (IC), a design-technology-fabrication company able to provide everything from initial design concept to handover of a finished building.
One of their products was the housing project MONAD, built in Vancouver in 2011. A fully prefabricated engineered and mass-wood structure measuring approximately 1,200 square meters, it is the prototype of the “Platforms for life” project. As a model building, it was conceived to show potential customers what the platforms for life concept is all about – flexibly applicable for any conceivable site and for building heights up to 16 stories. By 2020 builders in Canada can go higher than six stories if they use mass timber. LWPAC and IC can already deliver this through special regulation. Unlike the light-frame or stud construction used to build houses and low-rises, mass timber is made by bonding together thin layers of wood to create a material that is much stronger and more fire-resistant than lumber.See more
Esquimalt Municipal Council has approved a rezoning application enabling the go-ahead of the Corvette Landing development. The building’s 83-units will be in the form of studio and one, two and three-bedroom suites located adjacent to Esquimalt Harbor in the urban area of Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia. The 12-storey mass timber pre-fabricated modular construction will provide affordable homes and won the LafargeHolcim Awards Silver for North America in 2017. The design by Vancouver-based Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture is based on “BC-produced mass-timber technology” using engineered wood products and off-site construction methods.
The project will be a first of its kind in the region and is part of a longer study by LWPAC + Intelligent City to improve the economic and spatial models for affordable housing. The mixed-use housing project brings significant innovation to residential apartment design – meeting the stringent Passive House (energy efficiency) certification requirements, and achieving carbon zero sustainability, and affordability. By focusing on streamlining the building process, the proposal is able to merge sustainability with affordability. Corvette Landing will utilize external corridors to save energy, feature rooftop terraces and an inner courtyard for residents.
The building will overlook Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt (CFB Esquimalt), Canada’s Pacific Coast naval base, and will be located at the junction of Admirals Road and Naden Way. Construction is set to commence in mid-2018 with completion due 2020.See more
As one of the three main LafargeHolcim Awards winners for North America in 2017, “Stacked” automatically qualified as a finalist in the Global LafargeHolcim Awards 2018. All 15 finalist project teams were asked to submit an updated and more comprehensive entry that was evaluated by a global jury in March 2018.
The results of the global phase of the 5th LafargeHolcim Awards competition were announced on March 28, 2018.
High density or low density housing is prevalent in North America – but nothing in between. LWPAC + Intelligent City in Vancouver is filling the gap: A flexible-use passive house employing prefab wooden elements was designed that will give residents the greatest possible freedom and could become an icon of sustainable construction. The concept is so flexible that it can be used equally well for a single building or a large development. “The proposal is able to merge sustainability with affordability, focusing not just on components but systems in its concentrated effort to strive for net zero energy,” said the jury.Read more »
To provide affordable housing, the proposal introduces a midrise, mixed use building type. The project is part of a longer study by the authors to improve the economic and spatial models for affordable housing. The adaptable timber panelized construction allows for versatility in unit layouts and the building mass, creating a variegated expression. The project achieves net zero energy through a high insulation value together with geothermal heating and cooling. Through flexibility, the proposed system empowers residents to invent their own future.
The jury was impressed by the comprehensive, construction-based approach. By focusing on streamlining the building process, the proposal is able to merge sustainability with affordability. The question it addresses is a crucial one in many cities across the region: how to provide sustainable, affordable housing in high-value urban areas. It does so through a careful examination of housing’s basics: aggregation, modularity, and scalability. This approach is further strengthened by its focus not just on components but systems and its concentrated effort to strive for net zero energy. The project’s methodology that makes high quality, affordable housing a question of both engineering and spatial quality is a powerful claim.See more
People – A Platform for the empowerment of people and communities
Rampant urban development has led to a highly formulaic, repetitive and inadequate one-fits all housing stock with segregated communities. Most developments are environmentally, socially and culturally unsustainable and unaffordable. How do we create housing that provides desirable homes, not units, with high quality livability, integrated living communities, sustainable regenerative ecologies, both in terms of material and energy resources, while improving affordability?
Platform for Life is a (re)generative housing system that can accommodate the evolving needs of individuals, families and communities, and is sufficiently flexible to empower people and communities to invent their future. Parametrically driven, the approach is based on choice, adaptability and participatory design.
Planet – EcoSystem – A performance driven platform focusing on renewable resources
The “EcoSystem” is based on the predominant use of renewable materials. Cross-Laminated-Timber (CLT) panel is the primary material for the platforms cluster and structural system. It has been engineered to allow for structures up to 12 floors, built from panelized open spatial modules. The material and panelization is ideal to combine renewable resources with state of the art CNC/Robotic precision fabrication. Equally the focus is on minimizing heat loss and cooling requirements through Passive House design (and certification) with a highly airtight prefabricated building envelope, allowing for close to net zero performance and LEED V4 Platinum compliance. The building will be delivered under the City of Vancouver’s Rental100 affordable housing program.
Innovation and Prosperity - adaptability, scalability and transferability
Platform for Life’s uniqueness is based on the combination of a parameter based design systems platform, providing certainty while enabling mass customization. We continue to develop the software engine that allows the exploration a multiplicity of scenarios, providing feedback for livability, environmental performance and critical project data. The technology allows us to embrace a direct design-to fabrication and systematic prefabrication process. The cluster presents a simple, clear, systematic model: an innovative design concept that fully integrates materials and methods, structure, enclosure and mechanical systems. As an open evolving platform it adapts to the opportunities of societal technological change, while offering adaptability, scalability, transferability and certainty.See more
Modular midrise housing, Vancouver, Canada - To provide affordable housing, the proposal introduces a midrise, mixed use …
Materials, lifecycle, building performance and socio-economic factors are central to the holistic sustainability of …
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