The Arbour, George Brown College's mass–timber building

The Arbour - learning landscape

Mass-Timber Trailblazer

George Brown College is poised to transform Toronto’s skyline with the construction of a mass-timber building called The Arbour. The 10-storey structure — an addition to our Waterfront Campus — will be the first mass-timber and low-carbon institutional building in Ontario.

Construction of The Arbour begins in fall 2021 at the corner of Queens Quay East and Lower Sherbourne Street, just north of the Daphne Cockwell Centre for Health Sciences.

Construction that addresses climate change and supports innovation

Designed by the team of Moriyama and Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects, The Arbour will be a landmark of sustainable building and a research hub.

  • Made in Canada: All mass timber components are sourced nationally.
  • Low-carbon design: The building form and shape are designed to maximize access to natural light and fresh air.
  • A living lab: Students will learn in and from the facility equipped with smart building technologies.
  • A centre for innovation: The Arbour will house the Tall Wood Research Hub.

Learn more about The Arbour

Learning, Research and Community Spaces


The Arbour will house the School of Architectural Studies and the School of Computer Technology. Our students will learn in and learn from this flexible and future-proof facility that will be equipped with networked and adaptable smart building systems. The building is designed to adjust to changing academic uses and a changing climate.


The Arbour will also serve as an important research centre focused on mass-timber construction. The Mass Timber Research Hub will support the development of innovative new ideas and practices in sustainable building.

Learn more about mass-timber construction:


The Arbour will house a childcare centre serving the surrounding neighbourhood.

George Brown College has played a key role in the revitalization of the East Bayfront community. In 2012, we opened the Daphne Cockwell Centre for Health Sciences at Waterfront Campus. In 2019, we expanded our Waterfront Campus when the School of Design took up residence at the Daniels Waterfront—City of the Arts complex at Queens Quay Easy and Lower Jarvis Street. We’ve also become an important anchor in the Corktown community. Our first residence, The George, opened in 2016 and houses approximately 500 students.

The Design Team

In April 2018, we announced the building design created by the team of Moriyama and Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects was chosen for The Arbour.

Toronto-based Moriyama and Teshima Architects has received more than 200 awards, including six Governor-General's Medals for architecture. Vancouver-based award-winning firm Acton Ostry Architects recently completed the Brock Commons Tallwood House, an 18-storey student residence at the University of British Columbia.

Learn more about our design team at

The Buzz

The Arbour design has been winning awards and making headlines since we announced the project in 2018.

2021 - MaRS lists The Arbour as one of its 10 Toronto green buildings to get excited about. 

2021 - NOW Magazine includes The Arbour in its 11 buildings that will change Toronto list.

2019 - WAN (World Architecture News) awards — gold, Future Projects–Education category

2019 - AZ Award (Azure Magazine) — winner and People's Choice, Unbuilt Buildings category

2019 - MIPIM/Architectural Review Future Project Award — Sustainability Prize

2018 – Rethinking the Future, Architecture, Construction and Design Award — Institutional Concept

2018 – Canadian Architect Award of Excellence


What is mass timber?

Mass timber refers to large dimension solid lumber, glued-laminated lumber (glulam), cross-laminated lumber (CLT) or other large-dimension wood products as opposed to conventional stick-frame construction typically used in low-rise and mid-rise buildings. With advanced construction technologies and modern mass timber products, building tall with wood is not only achievable but already taking place around the world.

Why was a mass timber structural system selected for The Arbour?

Mass timber offers several advantages, including improved dimensional stability and better structural and fire safety during construction and occupancy. These new products are also prefabricated, which offers tremendous opportunities to improve the speed and quality of construction in tall building applications.

The use of mass timber components for The Arbour represents a ‘Made in Canada’ approach that will showcase Ontario as a leader in sustainable timber construction. As the first mass-timber, low-carbon institutional building in the province, The Arbour will serve as a practical example of what can be achieved with advanced wood products in construction.

Is mass timber construction safe?

Advancements in building technology and research, coupled with the rigorous five-year process for building code changes ensures that safety is of the utmost importance for every building, regardless of the materials used.

Recent case studies of modern mass timber buildings in Canada and around the world showcase the fact that wood is a viable solution for attaining safe, cost-effective, and high-performance tall buildings. For more information, refer to the following case study and references: Brock Commons Tall Wood House (Canadian Wood Council).

What about fire?

Mass timber has inherent fire resistance due to charring which tends to protect residual wood as it acts as an insulator. Moreover, it is quite difficult to ignite mass timber elements in a building (i.e., columns, beams, floors) due to their massive sizes. Often, mass timber buildings are fully or partially encapsulated with gypsum or cement boards which further protect the wood from being engaged in fire. Tall mass timber buildings are also required to have active fire suppression systems such as sprinklers which are the first line of defence in the event of a fire. Typically, mass-timber buildings are equipped with smoke and fire alarms to further enhance fire safety.

Why build tall with wood?

The use of wood in tall buildings offers some significant advantages, including:

  • the ability to build higher in areas where poor soils exist – a wood superstructure is lighter than other building materials and therefore, has reduced foundation requirements;
  • a quieter construction site - neighbours are less likely to complain and workers are not exposed to high levels of noise due to the high level of prefabrication involved;
  • improved worker safety – safety during construction can be improved with the ability to work off large mass timber floor plates that have already been machined at the plant to facilitate easy on-site assembly by the small number of crew involved;
  • shorter construction times - prefabricated components manufactured off-site can be shipped and installed relatively quickly, reducing the overall duration of construction which has huge positive financial implications; and
  • improved energy performance – wood’s natural thermal resistance combined with tight tolerances in the building envelope assembly can produce buildings with high operational energy performance, increased airtightness, better indoor air quality and improved human comfort.

Wood products store/sequester carbon absorbed by the trees while growing. Buildings constructed with mass timber are particularly advantaged when it comes to carbon sequestration because of the high wood volume in mass timber panels, columns, and beams. As a low-carbon material, wood has significant potential to reduce the overall GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions of the building sector compared to other energy-intensive materials. Mass timber has the potential to be reused or repurposed in the event of disassembly at the end of the project’s life, thus allowing for longer carbon sequestration and reuse of construction materials.

Life cycle assessment studies consistently show that wood outperforms other construction materials, in identical applications, in terms of embodied energy, air and water pollution and global warming mitigation.

Are mass timber buildings all wood?

Mass timber buildings are hybrid structures that incorporate systems comprised of several building materials for foundations, the first floor or for elevator and stairwell shafts. By including wood as a structural option in taller construction we can benefit from the many advantages wood offers, while still incorporating other materials like steel and concrete where their use makes the most sense, ultimately making the best use of all our material resources.