B.C. Wood that really WORKS!

Leadership and innovation in wood use was celebrated last week at the Vancouver Convention Centre West, as more than 350 distinguished design and building professionals, including architects, engineers, project teams and industry sponsors and guests gathered to honour the nominees and winners of the 2012 Wood WORKS! BC Wood Design Awards. The 8th annual awards evening in Vancouver recognizes and encourages continued excellence in the building and design community.  

Wood WORKS! is a national industry-led initiative of the Canadian Wood Council, with a goal to support innovation and provide leadership on the use of wood and wood products. Wood WORKS! BC provides education, training and technical expertise to building and design professionals involved with non-residential construction projects throughout B.C. 

There were 106 nominations in 12 categories for projects all over the province, and included some national and international projects; one in China and another in South Africa.  “We are  proud to congratulate the winners and nominees of the 2012 Wood Design Awards, who have all explored the potential of wood, and showcased its outstanding qualities such as strength, beauty, versatility and cost-effectiveness,” says Wood WORKS! BC executive director Mary Tracey. “The wood design and innovation has been remarkable from both an architectural and structural standpoint, and we salute and thank our outstanding design and building professionals for amazing and inspiring us with your achievements.” 

The panel of five judges included John Allan, CEO, Council of Forest Industries; Greg Johnson, MAIBC, MRAIC, P.Eng., LEED AP,  School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture,  University of British Columbia; Steven Kuan, Ph.D., P.Eng., FEC, Senior Seismic Engineer, Office of Housing and Construction Standards, Ministry of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Housing with the Government of British Columbia;  Reza Vaziri, Ph.D., P.Eng. Professor and Head, Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia; and Scott Wolf, Partner, The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP, Seattle, WA.  

The BC Premier’s Wood Champion Award was presented to architect Jim Taggart, FRAIC. As an architectural writer, Jim has contributed to numerous magazines and has authored several books, including Towards a Culture of Wood Architecture. “As both an educator and keynote speaker, Jim’s natural gifting and passion for wood is evident, and he continues to inspire the next generation of architects to consider wood as a building material,” stated the nomination by Fast & Epp Structural Engineers.

The Wood Innovation Award recognizes creative and innovative approaches in the use of wood in building design, product design and/or processes. The winners of this category received the honour based on two recent product innovations. They are Gerald Epp and Brian Woudstra, of StructureCraft Builders – Gerald Epp for commercialization of mechanically-fastened cross-laminated timber (CLT) at Fire Hall #15 and Brian Woudstra for commercialization of the WoodWave structural panel at Alberni District Secondary School.  The jury stated that this award-winning firm is “innovative, brave and courageous – and knows how to think outside the box.”

The Green Building Award went to Craig Duffield of McFarland Marceau Architects for the Ecole Mer et Montagne Elementary School, in Campbell River. The concept for this project evolved almost entirely out of the re-use and re-purposing of existing wood joists discovered within the derelict existing school building on the site. The building contained two key resources worth preserving – a treasure-trove of beautiful tight-grained Douglas fir joists, and a serviceable gymnasium.  Demonstrating the sustainability of wood to future leaders resonated with the jury.  This, and the fact that this project utilized wood in every conceivable manner possible, resulting in a warm and friendly learning environment, quickly put this project at the top of the list.

The Engineer Award was presented to a firm that went the extra mile to prove that it is possible to use wood in order to provide public buildings that are cost effective, architecturally expressive and engaging, while adhering to a strict budget. Fast + Epp Structural Engineers, known and respected internationally, and whose name is synonymous with innovative engineering solutions, was chosen for the award because of their innovative work on a 50,000-square-foot replacement of the existing Samuel Brighouse Elementary School in Richmond, B.C.

The 2012 Architect Award went to an architect who has promoted the use of wood both at home and abroad. Two recent projects, though very different in nature, demonstrate this architect’s ability to prove to his client that wood is a durable and viable building material. Sean Barrington Pearson with his RUFproject (Rural Urban Fantasy Project) was presented the award for his work on the Gulf Islands Residence & Boat House on Salt Spring Island, and the Football Training Centre in Soweto, South Africa.

Winners in the wood design categories inlcuded:

 • Residential Wood Design: Linear House, Salt Spring Island – C.C. Yao, Read Jones Christoffersen

A 16-acre farm located on Salt Spring Island, the site of this house is bisected from east to west by a long row of mature Douglas fir trees. Given the site’s remoteness and the owner and architect’s unique design intent for a structure in complete complement with the natural landscape, and transformable into an open-air pavilion, wood was deemed the best choice in material for many reasons, including its versatility in cost-effectively addressing the structural/large span challenges and its local availability.

• Multi-Unit Residential Wood Design: Camas Gardens Supportive Housing, Victoria – Paul Hammond, Chow Low Hammond Architects

Located in a neighbourhood described as a dichotomy of architectural languages and typologies, the designers of Camas Gardens sought to translate the diversity of architectural languages within the neighbouring context by offering a solution that is contemporary, durable and restores a piece of the city fabric. They set out to challenge a pre-conception about government-funded housing that it visually reflect “low cost”, by exceeding the expected quality of space and material, yet meeting the project budget; aiding in the rehabilitation of the inhabitants while contributing to the greater urban context of the built environment. The designers stated that the use of wood on the façade and soffit in the building structure and surrounding landscaping is an important contribution to the quality of experience and the sustainable goals set for this project. Designed to LEED Gold standards, the building is a mix of three and four storey wood-frame construction with the main entrance punctuated by a one-storey common room that partially encloses a south-facing courtyard. The internal layering of the building weaves around this courtyard, at once embracing the residents within, and gesturing to the neighbourhood a sense of openness. This warming to the community is achieved through the elegant use of Western red cedar, emphasizing the creation of shared courtyard space, while addressing the street and enhancing the neighbourhood. The wood ribbon becomes a beacon on the residential street as well as from within the building and is symbolic of the human primordial affinity to nature.

• Western Red Cedar: Courtenay City Hall Renovation, Courtenay –  City of Courtenay

Wood played a starring role in the C
ourtenay City Hall renovation. With a mandate to use local products as much as possible, Western red cedar and Douglas fir were natural choices. Historically these were harvested and milled in the Comox Valley, and they remain a favourite option for local building materials. Wood was also chosen for its beauty and popularity with the public. The use of wood helped add a traditional element to the contemporary look of the building. It visually connects City Hall to other public buildings downtown, including the Courtenay Library and the Comox Valley Art Gallery which both have wood strongly incorporated into their designs. It was noted that as a local government, remaining fiscally responsible is a necessity. Wood is a cost-effective finish for public buildings, and with proper maintenance, it will remain durable and functional for years to come. The use of wood also helped the project meet environmental considerations, as it is a renewable and sustainable material. The City of Courtenay hopes this project sets an example to the development community on how wood can be incorporated as both a structural and a design element, hopefully guiding and influencing future local development.

• Interior Beauty Design: Art’s Place Food Services Outlet, Fine Arts Building, University of Victoria, Victoria – Antoni James, Warner James Architects

Designed as a free-standing sculptural object in the Fine Arts Building lobby, the coffee outlet had to float in the space without touching walls or windows. When secured after hours, the design takes on a glowing lantern effect from within and below; it also had to achieve transparency to allow daylight to continue into the lobby. Wood slats achieved these objectives and wood was specifically used as a contrast in warmth, colour and texture within this elegant two-storey space. Western birch, birch plywood and custom millwork are the predominant wood features.

• Institutional Wood Design – Small: Steveston Fire Hall, Richmond – Darryl Condon, Hughes Condon Marler Architects

The new Steveston Fire Hall is located on a site owned by the City of Richmond. It’s a two-storey building consisting of three main spaces: fire hall, apparatus bays and hose drying, and training tower. In keeping with the City of Richmond’s commitment to sustainability, the Steveston Fire Hall has been designed targeting LEED Gold certification. The use of pine beetle-killed wood helps to mitigate impacts from the provincial Mountain Pine Beetle infestation and facilitates socio-economic benefits to the region. Situated at the door step of the Steveston community, the fire hall acts as a natural gateway to the community with its hose/ training tower announcing its presence as a beacon. To this end, wrapping the building interior with wood consistently throughout imparts a sense of familiarity, friendliness and visual warmth to the community. Transparency of the space layout and the consistent use of wood contribute to the success of the design, creating an iconic and functional facility for the City of Richmond.

  • Institutional Wood Design – Large: Ecole au Coeur de l’ile Comox, Comox – Jesse Garlick, McFarland Marceau Architects
  • Wood was used extensively and was important to the design solution. The 2960 m2 roof structure is constructed entirely of FSC certified wood. Interior spaces (project rooms and reading alcoves) are created using solid timber decking. These solid wood elements create a durable and warm interior finish matching the finish of the wood roof structure. Reclaimed wood is also a significant feature of the school. 7.5 metre- high glazing walls utilize the reclaimed timber joists to support the wind and seismic loads. Left unfinished, these timber “fins” speak to the history of the site, and bring the texture and warmth of 60-year- old fir. This material is also used as benches and display cabinets. The remaining millwork is constructed of veneer core birch plywood with exposed edges, and custom perforated (CNC) plywood panels are used as balustrades, and acoustic wall paneling.

• Commercial Wood Design: Nanaimo Cruise Ship Terminal Building, Nanaimo – David Poiron and Ben Checkwitch, Checkwitch Poiron Architects

The project is located on the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf, a location that once supported three sawmills (one of which is still in operation) and was a major point for the storage and shipping of lumber on Vancouver Island. As the facility is the first point of contact for many cruise ship passengers to Nanaimo, it was important to portray the region’s historical and ongoing relationship with the wood industry. As such, wood plays a dominant role in the passenger experience through the building. The wood clad office box, located partially interior and partially exterior to the building, gives an initial wood impression to passengers who must walk underneath the suspended structure while being processed by Canada Customs. Proceeding to the welcome centre space the passengers are surrounded by the main structure, glulam columns and beams which are curved, and wood slat screens, giving a sense of enclosure, warmth and directionality to the space, as well as opening up the space to the view of the harbour beyond. When passengers return to the terminal building, the welcome centre space also serves as the last point of contact and thus gives a reminder of the importance of wood, specifically to this site and to Nanaimo in general.