Wooden Skyscraper - UBC
When you create an innovative project brimming with new ideas, make sure your toolkit includes teleconferencing

What will soon be North America’s tallest wood framed building is under construction at the University of British Columbia (UBC). One of the world’s new “wooden skyscrapers,” it demonstrates that
environmentally friendly wood can be used as the framework to build large structures just as economically and safely as less ecological concrete, glass and steel.

One of the key tools in both its conception and construction will have been the conference call.

The project brought together a dozen partners, and engaged a design team on several continents. An incredible amount of information needed not only to be shared, but worked on in a collaborative process.

As a new project under a very public microscope, the residence couldn’t afford mistakes.

The project is a perfect example of how conference calls can help keep a multidisciplinary team connected for a successful project.

North America’s Tallest Wood Building

When the 18-storey Tall Wood Building student residence opens in September 2017, it will be home to 400 students in 272 studios and 33 four-bedroom units. Some of the students living in the 53 metre wood structure will be engaged in research monitoring the building’s performance.

The residence has enhanced fire protection, and it was the first building core in B.C. to meet the new 2015 National Building Code regulations to minimise damage in an earthquake.

Conference calls keep multidisciplinary teams connected

Because the concept of a wooden skyscraper is so revolutionary and sustainable, the project attracted many funding partners including; UBC’s Housing Services, the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, Forestry Innovation Investment, Natural Resources Canada, and B.C.’s Ministry of Forests.

The multidisciplinary design team was likewise much larger than on typical building projects.

Led by Vancouver’s Acton Ostry Architects, the team included Austrian tall wood specialists Architekten Hermann Kaufmann, Canadian non-profit forest sector research centre, FPInnovations, local structural engineers Fast + Epp, LEED certifiers, and a host of trades, who all needed to share crucial information in a collaborative way.

Information transfer and idea generation

UBC's Tall Wood Building
Conference calls can help your team not only transmit crucial information, but sculpt it into ideas

One of the key concepts of UBC’s Tall Wood Building was that it could compete with traditional structural materials on a cost basis.

They simply couldn’t always afford the expense of moving Austrian engineers and busy provincial Ministers around to physical meetings.

Yet the information needed to be transmitted precisely, and more than that, they needed a collaborative, two-way, real-time medium in which raw information could be exchanged, completed, and crafted into a design that the world has never seen before.

Advantages of conference calls

Conference calls and multidisciplinary design teams are a great match because of the communication features conference calls offer.

  1. Call Record creates a permanent resource of meetings, and records decisions made, automatically producing an MP3 file within two hours that can be transcribed for later use as minutes or material for news releases.
  2. Screen Sharing and Web Conferencing are vital tools for visual artists like architects and engineers to ensure the same information is in front of everyone.
  3. Crystal Clear Audio. True conference calls over cellphones or landlines eliminate Skype Echo and robotic voices, and help team members hear the subtle human communication clues they need to work collaboratively.
  4. Videoconferencing helps bring the power of face to face into key decision making sessions.

Although conference calls—and even videoconferencing—can be free, the real savings for a project come in staff time savings and increased productivity. In a global world, where best practices are being refined simultaneously at multiple international sites, conference calls are the perfect tool to keep information flowing and ideas brewing.