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Monday, 15 January 2024
T3 Bayside Phase 1 - The Largest Mass Timber Office Building in North America Focuses on Sustainability and Biophilic Design

 (© Image Courtesy 3XN Architects)© Image Courtesy 3XN Architects

FSC US 2023 Leadership Award Profile

Project Partners:
Hines: Owner
WZMH Architects: Architect of Record
3XN Architects: Design Architect
Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA): Structural Engineer
Eastern Construction: Construction Manager
Nordic Structures: Structural Engineer - Wood, Mass Timber Supplier

Designed by world-renowned Danish architecture firm 3XN, T3 Bayside Phase 1 is the latest in a series of creative modern workplaces built with Hines’ visionary T3 concept: Timber, Transit, Technology. It brought 262,000 sq. ft. of contemporary, innovative office space to Downtown Toronto’s eastern waterfront in 2023. The project was a recipient of a 2023 FSC Leadership Award.

With an active presence in over 300 cities worldwide, Hines tracks evolving real estate trends and tenant requirements. Hines observed the rapid growth of creative and technology sector tenants and how these tenants challenge the traditional definition of office space.

These companies want functional offices that echo their corporate and expanding ecological principles. They demand an elevated tenant-driven experience with amenities designed to encourage wellness and collaboration, combined with state-of-the-art technologies, and responsibly sourced building materials.

The office is also a key tool in the ongoing struggle to attract and retain top talent. According to recent research, employees working in a biophilic-focused environment have improved physical, mental and social well-being. This leads to reduced absenteeism and stress levels while increasing cognitive function and engagement.

Motivated by these insights, Hines incorporated them into the design and construction of T3 Bayside Phase 1.

 (© Image Courtesy 3XN Architects)© Image Courtesy 3XN Architects“With T3 Bayside we created flexible office spaces that can meet the requirements of a diverse group of tenants.” - Kim Herforth Nielsen, founder and creative director of 3XN.

At T3 Bayside, an emphasis on wood and wellness is paramount. The 10-story office building comprises a concrete podium on the ground floor supporting a 9-level exposed mass timber structure. Expansive double-height spaces enveloped in natural wood offer breathtaking views and abundant natural light, seamlessly connecting tenants with nature.

One of the buildings’ most distinctive features is a sequence of stepped interior spaces which form a continuous loop around the buildings’ outer edges. The first three ‘steps’ will be open to the public, acting as an extension to the plaza, and softening the transition from public to private space.

The upper ‘steps’ belong to the offices and act as double-height spaces joining two office floors. A key element of the design was offering tenants flexibility and the option to personalize their space. Made possible through mass timber construction, soft spots in the slabs can be removed or restored, allowing tenants to adapt the space to their preferred arrangement. These elements allow the building to adapt to changing needs as businesses grow or as work practices evolve over time.

The project's commitment to minimizing embodied carbon through timber construction methods significantly reduces its environmental footprint.

T3 Bayside has set ambitious sustainability goals, targeting LEED Gold and WELL Certification, and has already attained Wired Score Platinum Certification, underscoring its commitment to promoting occupant wellness while minimizing its impact on the natural environment.

The entire timber structure, including glulam beams and CLT floor and roof slabs, is 100% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified. The timber engineering partner, Nordic Structures, has been FSC chain-of-custody certified since 2009. Nordic was the first private company to certify forestlands under the FSC label in Canada.

The timber employed in T3 Bayside Phase 1 was sourced from Nordic’s selectively harvested mature black spruce trees, typically between 80 and 120 years of age. This approach optimizes the carbon cycle's efficiency. As trees age, they cease to capture additional carbon for growth, eventually decaying and releasing the previously stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Harvesting these mature trees and converting them into timber products maintains carbon storage within these products for as long as the timber is in use.

The structural properties of black spruce are exceptional; surprisingly, its compression parallel to grain value is equivalent to concrete!

The commitment to FSC also includes a deliberate and ongoing reforestation strategy. Timber produced this way serves as one of the most eco-friendly and renewable building materials available, with remarkable benefits for T3 Bayside Phase 1:

  • 3,886 metric tons of carbon dioxide stored.
  • 6,655 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided.
  • It takes just 15 minutes for U.S. and Canadian forests to grow the amount of wood used in T3 Bayside.
  • Replacing concrete & steel – both significant carbon emitters – timber absorbs and sequesters carbon, significantly reducing the environmental impact.
  • T3's timber structure achieves an estimated 40-50% reduction in embodied carbon compared to traditional office buildings, or the equivalent of taking 2700 cars off the road for a year.

The materiality of timber serves as the defining element of the interior aesthetics, and this choice is mirrored in the exterior of the building.

Both the material and the configuration of the wooden frame is strategically designed to optimize acoustics. Furthermore, wood is a breathable and moisture-absorbent material, ensuring a naturally regulated and healthy indoor environment.

A structure built with mass timber is typically five times lighter than a concrete one. Components are developed through 3D modeling and cut by precision CNC machines. Cross-laminated timber panels are quickly and easily installed with small erection crews using standard tools and fasteners. Nordic X-Lam panelized construction allows for a year-round construction season, and job site storage issues are mitigated with just-in-time deliveries.

When exposed to fire, mass timber’s low heat transmission factor enables it to maintain its structural integrity. The char that forms on the exposed surface creates a protective layer that shields the core, preserving more of its structural resistance. This allows timber buildings to maintain their integrity during an emergency, and in some cases exceed the performance of steel, which can deform in fires. Since it burns at a predictable and calculable rate, engineers achieved a 2-hour fire resistance rating for T3 Bayside.

 (© Rasmus Hjortshøj)© Rasmus HjortshøjAs part of an ambitious whole-life sustainability strategy, the building incorporates a number of low-energy solutions and is designed so that it can be disassembled. Mechanical joints between the timber components mean that once T3 has reached the end of its life they can be undone and the building taken apart, minimizing waste, extending the life of the materials, and contributing to a circular economy.
By prominently featuring a timber structure in the design of a high-profile commercial building, T3 Bayside serves as a notable example of responsibly-sourced timber use. It demonstrates the feasibility and benefits of utilizing FSC-certified timber in large-scale construction projects.

More about Nordic Structures:

Nordic Structures, based in Montreal, was the mass timber component supplier to T3 Bayside.

A vertically integrated company, Nordic manages 13 million acres of forestland to FSC certification and has carried certification since 2009. They harvest the timber from the lands they manage, mill it, and manufacture the final mass timber components. Nordic’s land management protects biodiversity - including native caribou habitat, food sources for indigenous people, and contributes to rural job security.

Their team worked for over a year with the architects and project owner on design methodology to make the building work. They were able to deliver responsibly-sourced solutions that were cost effective, resulting in a winning bid in competition with non-FSC certified sources.

Nordic also engaged with code officials in Toronto, helping push the code limits and deliver a boundary-expanding project that met all requirements, in an industry that is continually reimagining what is possible through mass timber construction.