College of New Caledonia

PROJECT College of New Caledonia–Technical Trades Centre, Quesnel, British Columbia
ARCHITECT Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers Inc (commenced as McFarlane | Green | Biggar Architecture + Design Inc)
PHOTOS OMB/Jean-Philippe DeLage

This new 2,500-square-metre Technical Education Centre provides safe and flexible space for the instruction of technical and industrial trades and related curricula. The building was completed in 2011 on a very tight timeline, and delivered within a very modest construction budget. The facility supports 250 students in a broad array of courses, including welding, millwright, carpentry, plumbing and electrical programs. The program possesses an inherent toughness that served as inspiration for the project and is celebrated throughout.

The project is the second phase of the College of New Caledonia’s seven-hectare Quesnel campus, and complements the Main Campus Building completed in 2006. Situated on a brownfield site, the building mediates between the existing college parking area and the forested bluff that marks the edge of the campus to the south.

The formal parti is derived from the clear division between indoor/outdoor industrial learning spaces and more traditional classroom settings, and is further informed by the desire for easy linear expansion to the west. The programmatic elements are organized in a single storey and are differentiated through the building’s simple volumes and materials.

A two-storey linear atrium space organizes the major programmatic elements succinctly and provides a naturally ventilated connection to the Main Campus Building. A multi-cell polycarbonate glazing system provides abundant daylight while controlling glare from southern exposure. The lush greenery of the forest edge provides the backdrop to the more contemplative classroom, administrative, and gathering spaces, while a full-height meticulously detailed wooden glazing system provides extended views into the landscape and delivers natural ventilation. The busy shop spaces and the associated works yard are proudly oriented toward the centre of the campus, and are generously proportioned to allow for multiple uses and infinite flexibility.

The construction of the building is relatively straightforward. The tightly controlled materiality is a direct descendant of the humble material palette of the industrial vernacular. Materials were chosen for their capacity to develop a patina over time in lieu of onerous maintenance. Ground-face load-bearing concrete masonry units envelop the shops and support recycled steel joists and decking. Polycarbonate clerestory glazing emits diffuse light in the shops and atrium, while black fibre-cement panels provide a neutral backdrop to the myriad of activities in the works yard. Plain-sawn fir plywood is deployed strategically throughout the interior, in homage to the region’s wood-based economy.

The building demonstrates commitment to sustainable building practices, targeting LEED Gold certification. Building green in the north requires a focus on the optimization of energy performance. Special attention was focused on balancing the desire for transparency and natural light with building thermal performance to minimize demand on active mechanical systems. Interiors were fitted out with low-emitting materials, chosen for high recycled content and locally sourced wherever possible. In response to the rugged nature of the program, finishes were selected for their durability and natural appearance.

Jury: Transformed by a series of big, bold moves that celebrate basic materials, modular construction and an industrial ethos, this modest program for a technical trades college elevates the commonplace into the heroic. Embedded within the sober, stripped-back structure, a dignified and generous set of spaces form an uplifting environment for technical education and show how apparently ordinary buildings can be elevated into truly memorable architecture. CA

Client College of New Caledonia
Architect Team Steve McFarlane, Michelle Biggar, Anabella Alfonzo, Mingyuk Chen, Jean-Philippe Delage, Beth Denny, Nick Foster, Josie Grant, Jennell Hagardt, Gerry Reibling, Lydia Robinson, Feliz Sarcepuedes, Susan Scott, Barry Wong, Jing Xu
Structural Equilibrium Consulting
Mechanical/Electrical Cobalt Engineering
Code GHL Consultants
Civil L&M Engineering
Landscape PWL Partnership
Specifications Morris Specifications
Builder PCL Construction
Area 2,500 m2
Completion Spring 2011
Budget $9.5 M