Construction underway on BCIT Burnaby's 12-storey mass timber student housing tower

Apr 15 2023, 3:50 am

Major construction activities are underway on the single largest on-campus student housing building at the Burnaby campus of British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

The project is being built on a former surface parking lot south of the SW3 building on the western edge of the campus, next to Willingdon Avenue.

Construction on the 12-storey mass timber tower first began in late 2022, with visible progress now being made on the foundations.

The BCIT Tall Timber Student Housing building will have 470 beds, effectively more than doubling BCIT’s on-campus student housing capacity from 329 to 799 beds. It is BCIT’s first student housing project in four decades.

There will be studio units and single-occupancy rooms with shared bathrooms and kitchens, along with the provision of common spaces, collaboration and study rooms, and support areas.

The hybrid timber tower will be configured as two rectangular wings set at 90 degrees, with prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels supported by steel columns, and a steel braced frame for the staircase and elevator cores. The structure’s green design will reach the BC Energy Step Code 4 and a LEED Gold certification.

BCIT Tall Timber Student Housing Burnaby 1

Location of the Tall Timber Student Housing tower at BCIT Burnaby. (Google Maps)

BCIT Tall Timber Student Housing Burnaby

Illustration showing the hybrid mass timber system of the Tall Timber Student Housing tower at BCIT Burnaby. (Fast & Epp)

The project’s architectural firm is Perkins&Will. Its design is not entirely dissimilar to the 2017-built, 18-storey Brock Commons Tallwood House student residence at the University of British Columbia.

“The Tall Timber Student Housing project is a much-needed addition to the BCIT Burnaby Campus community — allowing more students the opportunity to live on campus while they pursue their hands-on education,” said Paul McCullough, the interim president of BCIT, in a statement.

The provincial government is providing $108.5 million towards the $119.7 million cost of the project. This provincial funding was first announced in 2020.

“Building secure, stable and affordable housing is essential for students to be successful at their studies,” said Selina Robinson, the BC minister of post-secondary education and future skills.

Ravi Kahlon, the BC minister of housing, added: “Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home, and students should feel secure enough to focus more on their studies, and less on finding a place to live.”

Construction is expected to reach completion in Fall 2024, which is a shorter timeline compared to a conventional building due to the quicker construction process using mass timber.

BCIT Tall Timber Student Housing Burnaby

Artistic rendering of the Tall Timber Student Housing tower at BCIT Burnaby. (Perkins&Will/BCIT)

BCIT Tall Timber Student Housing is part of BCIT’s goal of building 2,500 additional on-campus homes by 2040, while also preserving long-term space for academic, research, and supporting uses.

As a measure to reduce the high demand on general rental housing supply, over recent years, the provincial government has provided significantly greater financial support to post-secondary institutions to build more purpose-built student residences. Currently, nearly 7,800 new student beds are already built or underway.

Early this month, as part of its new Homes For People action plan, the provincial government announced its intention to help build 4,000 more on-campus student housing units through $575 million in additional funding over the next three years.

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