Why Wood Works! for Perkins+Will

Perkins+Will, together with the University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Boards of Parks and Recreation, celebrates the win of three Wood WORKS! BC awards at the 9th annual Wood Design Awards Gala held on Mar. 4 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The Awards Gala honours new buildings that push the boundaries of excellence and innovation in wood construction design. Recognizing the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre, along with the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) and Earth Sciences Building (ESB) projects, the awards are a testament to Perkins+Will’s position as a bold leader in wood design today.

“Perkins+Will is extremely proud that three of our most recently completed projects received awards,” says Susan Gushe, managing director of Perkins+Will’s Vancouver office. “To be recognized as an innovator in wood design in British Columbia is truly a great honour. Together with our visionary clients and incredible structural design teams, we were able to capitalize on the unique opportunities to push the boundaries of wood design and engineering. Beyond its inherent sustainable properties, wood’s greatest attribute is the warm and healthy environments it creates for users.”

Wood WORKS! BC is a project of the Canadian Wood Council (CWC), the national association representing wood products and manufacturers for construction purposes across Canada. Werner Hofstätter, speaking on behalf of Wood WORKS! BC and the CWC states, “each distinct in vision and function, Perkins+Will’s daring and unique applications of wood on the CIRS, ESB and VanDusen projects stand as an exemplary showcase of British Columbia’s role as global pioneers in wood design and engineering. CIRS is a rigorous implementation of true sustainability proving that buildings can replenish more resources than they consume. ESB presents a seamless integration of heavy timber, Timberstrand and cross-laminated timber, testifying that wood can serve as the backbone of even the largest structures. Additionally, the Visitor Centre at the VanDusen Botanical Garden demonstrates a fearless vision that brought to life a roof structure consisting entirely of pre-fabricated and compound curved timber elements, creating a new benchmark for aesthetic and effective wood design.”


VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre

Winning the Wood Innovation Award, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre was celebrated for its groundbreaking use of wood products, including an innovative pre-fabricated wood structure that appears to float above the building’s curved rammed earth and concrete walls. The jury applauded the structural expression of the roof, calling it highly-dramatic and very innovative. Designed to exceed LEED Platinum, the Visitor Centre is the first building in Canada to register for the Living Building Challenge – the most stringent measurement of sustainability in the built environment. Utilizing wood as its primary building material, the Visitor Centre promotes occupant health while also sequestering carbon through its exposed wood elements.

“It was a pleasure and a true learning experience working with such a dedicated and knowledgeable team,” says John Ross, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation project manager. “Their commitment to sustainability and design excellence was evident throughout the process and demonstrated that the two are not mutually exclusive. The VanDusen project owes its success to the Perkins+Will staff and consultants, all of who contributed their expertise and enthusiasm to the process.”

A dynamic multi-purpose public amenity, the Visitor Centre has helped to open VanDusen to a new generation of visitors while providing a tangible, beautiful example of the Park Board and the City of Vancouver’s commitment to provide leadership in sustainable design and meet their 2020 Greenest City Action Plan goals. The Visitor Centre has won over 10 awards to date, including a Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia merit award.


Demonstrating their joint commitment to pushing the boundaries in sustainable design, the UBC and Perkins+Will celebrated back-to-back wins for their groundbreaking CIRS and ESB projects. The wins further solidify the ongoing strategic partnership between the two organizations that aims to create innovative solutions to maximize the life-cycle of buildings. “It was a very good night for UBC. These awards bring credence to UBC’s ‘Campus as a Living Lab’ and the value of partnering with those seeking to go the distance for sustainability,” says Gerry McGeough, UBC university architect.

Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability – University of British Columbia

Designed to be the most sustainable building in North America, CIRS was honoured with the Green Building Award. As the first large, multi-story wood building on campus since the passing of BC’s “Wood First Act”, CIRS expressed wood structure—constructed of FSC-certified wood and beetle-killed-pine—stores 904 tonnes of carbon, reducing the carbon footprint compared to the average UBC building by almost 90%. Conceived as a ‘living lab’, CIRS provides a practical testing ground for researchers from private, public and non-governmental organizations working towards the advancement and implementation of sustainable building technologies and practices.  More than a building, CIRS is a research tool that demonstrates the possibilities in sustainable design and disseminates information through the publically available Technical Manual, which includes an entire chapter devoted to the use of wood, and website (www.cirs.ubc.ca). The Wood WORKS! jury saluted the project’s “efforts to measure and share its performance with the world”.

Earth Sciences Building – University of British Columbia

Using wood as its primary structure and comprised of an innovative floor assembly coupled with post and beam construction, ESB is the largest panelized wood structure and the largest application of CLT in North America to date. Incorporating over 1,300 cubic metres of wood, ESB sequesters roughly 1,000 tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking 415 cars off the road for a year. Designed to enhance multi-disciplinary connections, ESB fosters unique collaborative opportunities while also presenting a showcase for excellence in wood design. Combining solid, cross-laminated wood and wood concreted composite panels, ESB raises the bar for wood use in large-scale, high-performance projects in Canada. Taking home the Large Institutional Building Award, the award’s jury describe ESB as an “outstanding building in terms of how wood was used and systems that have been applied. It is striking, very innovative and most impressive.”


Perkins+Will is a multi-disciplinary design firm with over 29 years of experience in Vancouver. The firm is known for design excellence and innovation, approaching the challenges of architectural, interior and urban design with a global vision and unmatched resources. Led by a strong leadership group who provide a range of expertise and diverse perspectives, Perkins+Will Vancouver is able to maximize its clients’ vision, transforming ideas into built excellence, on time and on budget.

Founded on the belief that design has the power to transform lives and enhance society
, the office is deeply connected to its community, donating one percent of its design services to local, non-profit organizations every year. Committed to the 2030 Challenge, the firm is ranked among North America’s leading green practices with an in-house research department and one of the largest portfolios of completed, deeply sustainable buildings, interior spaces and urban plans.

As a testament to their commitment to excellence, Perkins+Will Vancouver has received more than 150 design honours, including 6 Governor General’s Medals in Architecture, 13 Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Awards in Architecture, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Firm of the Year Award, numerous Canada’s Greenest Employers by the Globe and Mail, a 2013 BC Top Employer award, and recently one of the World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Architecture for 2013 by Fast Company.