Construction of a wood frame building in British Columbia, an example of mass-timber construction

Vancouver’s Future of Prefab, Modular, Mass-timber Buildings

The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC), Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA), and the Zero Emissions Building Exchange (ZEBx) have been proud to partner on the year-long events series: The Competitive Edge – Growing Your Business in the Future of Construction.

Canadians love wood – and that’s especially true for us here in Vancouver.

All right, get your mind out of the gutter. Wood is one of our country’s largest exports by volume and dollar amounts, and its near-infinite varieties and uses have dazzled architects and lawmakers alike in recent years. But mass timber, arguably the darling of government and many designers these days, is often thought of as a single material or product. This perspective misses the larger world of more prefabricated and modular approaches that are proliferating across the industry, often not involving wood at all.

Forget for a moment the preference Canadians are quickly developing for advanced forms of wood and other natural “biomaterials” – these modular and prefabricated approaches are worth understanding on their own. The work VEC, Scius Advisory, and BCIT did last year on profiling the construction technology (contech) sector illustrates the trend towards more cross-disciplinary approaches in construction.

Cost pressures for materials, land, and labour are all driving hunger for digital solutions in construction. And major regulatory moves, like embodied carbon rules and the overall move to zero-carbon, high-efficiency buildings will mean digital technologies must be combined with offsite, industrialized approaches to construction.

The push factors are there, but many barriers remain. Mass timber supply chains, despite BC’s plethora of wood, are still relatively immature

Modular and prefabricated approaches to buildings require new and more product-oriented contracting approaches. And, as the recent Katerra example shows – an industry darling promising to revolutionize assembly-line-style construction – failure is still very possible. But for those who succeed (and we believe there are many in BC who will) the competitive edge is mere steps away.

The third event of this series features three well-established industry leaders from Scius Advisory Services, Blackbox Offsite Solutions, and Intelligent Cities. They will discuss industry trends and drivers to all forms of prefabricated and modular construction; successes and failures they have witnessed, and what comes next in this exciting sector that VEC expects Vancouver to lead in going forward.

Resources mentioned during the panel

The Industrial, Prefabricated, Modular Future of Construction

Helen Goodland, Principal, Scius Advisory Services

Modular Approaches – When, Where, and How

Craig Mitchell, CEO, Blackbox Offsite Solutions

Integrated Mass Timber and Prefabricated Approaches

Oliver Lang, CEO, Intelligent City

About the webinar series

The Competitive Edge – Growing Your Business in the Future of Construction is a year-long, six-part series of webinars bringing together trends, opportunities, challenges, and information for the industry.

Attendees of the series will both gain valuable information and have unique opportunities to discuss key issues that could impact the industry.

Learn more and register