Wood Construction Scales Up

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Wood can be the perfect sustainable material; it sucks up CO2 and once cut, it holds it for the life of the building. Unfortunately in North America it is not used a lot for non-residential buildings and we don't see many offices or schools like they have in Finland. The Eugene H. Kruger building at the University of Laval was designed as an experiment in pushing wood as far as it could go; objectives set for architects Gauthier Gallienne Moisan were to "demonstrate the potential of an all-wood construction in a large scale building " and "to design the University's first building according to the principles of sustainable development."

kruger building laval

Buildings from Quebec never get the exposure that english North American ones do; there is no reason that a firm the size of Gallienne Moisan should have such a lousy website, without any photographs of a building that has been completed for a couple of years, or that the english architectural press would appear to ignore an eighty thousand square foot sustainable wood building, but they do. It is a shame because there is a lot going on here.


According to SA&B; Magazine, "the architects developed the following strategies: Firstly, to express the modern technological operation of converting eastern wood to uniform components. Due to the small size of available trees, the raw material is typically reduced to particles, chips and strips, then assembled into manufactured components. The product is therefore more uniform and stable, allowing thinner sections than unprocessed wood."


Because of careful use of "architectural strategies" (form, orientation, materials) the building achieves over 30% reduction in energy consumption; because of its extensive use of wood it results in a 40% reduction in embodied energy, 85% reduction in water pollution and 25% reduction in air pollution.


Eighty thousand square feet of innovative sustainable architecture, glue-lammed from chips and junk wood; it deserves better than scanned pictures and a website where they can't spell their own partner's name right. I hope it gets it.

Pictures from the September issue of ::Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine, construction photos from ::Goodfellow