Better buildings
February 1, 2023

Why More Schools Should Be Built With Wood

For the better part of a decade, B.C.’s schools have featured more innovative, eco-friendly, and flexible designs. Today’s schools are more versatile and adaptable, offer ample daylight and are focused on health and well-being, along with safety and better seismic performance. 



Ta’talu Elementary School in Surrey will be the first three-storey, hybrid mass timber elementary school in the province. | Rendering: courtesy thinkspace.

By Construction Business

Increasingly these schools are being built with locally supplied wood products and advanced hybrid-mass timber prefabricated construction. That’s the finding of a recent report Wood Use in British Columbia Schools, authored by B.C.-based architecture firm Thinkspace Architecture® Planning Interior Design Ltd. and structural engineering firm Fast + Epp.

The report highlights several B.C. schools built by an expanding roster of timber experts in the province—including architects, engineers, fabricators, contractors and building specialists.

The advantages of mass timber

Today’s modern light-frame wood and mass timber buildings have a proven fire safety record and are suitable for meeting the stringent safety guidelines for schools. Mass timber structures can offer advantages over conventional construction in the event of an earthquake. Wood buildings, particularly those using engineered wood products, are well suited to withstand and remain resilient against lateral seismic forces.

Gibsons Elementary School | This elementary school was built as part of the province’s seismic upgrade initiative. | Photo: Ed White Photographics.

Shorter construction timeline

Along with environmental and safety benefits, the report says prefabricated light-frame and mass timber schools can potentially be built better and faster. Manufactured off-site and quickly assembled on-site, these building systems can shorten the construction timeline—by months in some cases.

The report also highlights the health benefits of building more schools with wood. Recent research shows that incorporating wood into our buildings can reduce stress and contribute to good mental health.


Mulgrave School in West Vancouver is an independent school that follows the International Baccalaureate program for students from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. | Photo: Ed White Photographics.