Brock Commons, University of British Columbia (UBC)

Vancouver, Canada

A comfortable acoustic environment for the tallest mass timber building in the world

UBC’s Vancouver campus is working to increase its student housing capacity by more than a quarter by 2019. One innovative residence being constructed as part of this effort is Brock Commons (Tall Wood). This new building will not only house over 400 additional UBC students but will also showcase wood as a sustainable design material that is cost-competitive with the concrete and steel construction more conventional for structures of this type.


Services provided

  • The Challenge

    Although wood-frame construction has much to recommend it in terms of strength and sustainability, it presents distinct challenges with respect to acoustics and vibration. UBC engaged us to provide consulting services for noise control early in the design process, turning to our engineers to help their innovative building meet code and comfort requirements fully and efficiently. Brock Commons is just the latest collaboration in a long and successful relationship between UBC and RWDI. Our building-design and environmental teams have provided acoustics, noise and vibration, and air-quality expertise for projects related to 40 of the buildings at the University’s Vancouver campus.

    At Brock Commons, UBC retained us to address a number of important vibration and acoustic considerations, including:

    • isolation of airborne sound inside the building;
    • isolation of footstep vibration between floors;
    • room acoustics in common spaces and multi-purpose rooms; and - sound and vibration isolation for mechanical and electrical equipment.
  • Our Approach

    The acoustics team in our Vancouver office was an excellent fit for Brock Commons. Not only are they local to the project and engaged in UBC’s wider community, but they have extensive experience with contemporary wood-frame building and specifically with mass timber including Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) construction. Of particular value to the project was our senior consultant Dan Lyzun. With a number of first-of-their-kind wood builds on his resume, Dan has a record of advancing the frontiers of wood construction. His background includes working on the Wood Innovations Design Centre Project in Prince George, BC, a hub for researchers and design professionals developing innovative uses for wood.

    It is typical for innovative buildings like Brock Commons to run up against building-code challenges. In order to meet compliance, the design team had to develop alternatives to standard approaches used in concrete and steel construction; acoustic performance was a key area of focus as they developed these alternate design solutions. Our acoustic modelling software combined with our extensive experience in CLT design made us helpful partners in refining the acoustic performance of what is projected to be the world’s tallest CLT building.

    Because we were engaged early on, we were able to collaborate closely with the design team in the initial planning phases to ensure that acoustic detailing was integrated into all the building’s design elements. This early involvement ensured the acoustic performance of many of the building’s spaces and components were integrated into the pre-fabricated construction elements.

  • The Outcome

    Brock Commons welcomed its first residents in September 2017, and has produced lessons that inform large-scale wood construction projects around the world. We are proud that our work to enhance the acoustic environment of Brock Commons will help UBC not just show the feasibility of green construction approaches, but demonstrate to residents, visitors and design leaders worldwide that buildings that push the boundaries of sustainability can also set new standards for comfort and beauty.