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Please Say Hey to North America's 'Tallest' Wood Building

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Vancouver-based firm Michael Green Architecture, which Design Boom calls "long-time champions of timber construction," will soon break ground on its Wood Innovation Design Center in Prince George, British Columbia, a project being loudly hailed as North America's future tallest wood building. With the exception of a concrete foundation, metal connections, and (obviously) glass windows, the six-story structure will be built almost entirely with engineered timber; even the elevator shaft, which is almost always constructed with concrete, will be made of dense panels of wood.

At 27.5 meters (about 90 feet) tall, it's hard to know how this building will beat out North America's current tallest wood building—according to Wikipedia, that's the 185-foot-tall Église Sainte-Marie church in Nova Scotia. But this could very well become the continent's tallest wood non-church, so let's discuss it anyway: the WIDC is an important project for the local timber industry, and it'll serve as a slick new home for the University of Northern British Columbia's Masters of Engineering program, with classrooms, offices, and a gallery devoted to the "palpable experience of wood," according to Design Boom. "The Earth grows our food; The earth can grow our homes," chief architect Michael Green told the blog Tree Hugger in a 2012 interview. "It's an ethical change that we have to go through."

Such a construction method is meant to promote and show off advances in the timber industry. Of course, some, including the concrete industry, are none to pleased about this, calling British Columbia's new-found emphasis on wood construction nothing but a kowtow to the desperate pleas of timber lobbyists. What's more, the WIDC has been accused of side-stepping British Columbia building codes, which prohibit wooden structures taller than six stories. Technically the WDIC is six stories tall, but its extra-high ceilings (and resultant stature of a nine- to 10-story building) have attracted an onslaught of criticism and accusations about effectively manipulating an ordinance loophole.

· Michael Green Architecture: WIDC, North America's Tallest Wood Building [Design Boom]
· Architect Michael Green Calls Wood 'The Most Technologically Advanced Building Material In The World' [Tree Hugger]
· WIDC [official site]