This is a place of wood.  From boat building to traditional stick frame construction, wood construction is deeply engrained in the history and building culture of Newfoundland and Labrador.  FMA has recently been recognized by the Maritime Lumber Bureau at the first inaugural wood design awards for the Southlands Community Centre. (Read more about the award in an article in Canadian Architect magazine) We thought we’d take this opportunity to tell you about why we use wood.

FMA has a rich history of wood use in architecture and has employed wood based systems at many scales. Firstly, the traditional light wood frame, or stick frame, has always been recognized by the firm as an effective structural approach. This basic system has been widely used locally for well over four centuries for its simplicity, adaptability and cost effectiveness. These are the same reasons why we see the value in continuing to design with this proven approach and to expand on its potential. The current FMA office building uses the traditional light wood frame and engineered wood as part of a non-traditional hybrid wood/steel/concrete structural system. This system allows for the inclusion of wood structurally where it typically would not be employed.

We also advocate for the use of larger, ‘heavy’ timber systems. Examples of such ‘heavy’ timber technologies, both emerging and established, can be seen in numerous FMA projects. Our firm was the first in Atlantic Canada to employ Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels for a built project. The combination of glulam beams with CLT panels creates a highly successful clear span structural system. Such wood components are both cost effective have an attractive material quality and meet fire regulations. In the case of heavy timber, wood can even outperform traditional steel structures in fire. Structural curves can also be effectively achieved in laminated wood members. FMA frequently relies on these unique properties to allow designs to take form.

We see wood not only as a traditional material but a truly modern material as well.

The ever growing presence of BIM design and modeling tools fit naturally with fabrication processes involved in modern ‘heavy timber’ production. Mass customization possibilities are now more attainable and more practical in wood based building products. This allows for greater design opportunity with an efficiency of production in building scales previously only open to steel or concrete. In the right cases, wood systems are proving to be more aesthetically desirable, more constructible and more affordable alternatives to the ‘traditional’ materials of steel and concrete. We are currently expanding the use of large scale customized laminated wood panels and beams to now include laminated wood as vertical structural support for a more complete wood based building system.

A frequent challenge to FMA when proposing wood for a project is overcoming preconceptions or misconceptions about wood in architecture. This applies more so to large scale wood products such as CLT or glulam. One of the biggest misconceptions is cost.  The  building performance and cost effectiveness of wood in large scale applications is frequently misunderstood and initially not recognized. These misconceptions have been exposed in our past work. To overcome these challenges, we have, and continue to push hard to educate parties involved and provide precedents as tools of understanding.

In a recent meeting to discuss a developing FMA project, a member of a local cultural community reaffirmed the choice for wood based building systems in saying, “Wood has a soul.”

Some notable projects which have wood elements, structural or otherwise are: the Nunatsiavut Assembly Building, Our Office at 172 Logy Bay Road, Southlands Community Centre and Paul Reynolds Community Centre and Pool which is currently under construction.