Canadian Architect

Feature

Governor General’s Medal Winner: Wood Innovation and Design Centre

WINNER OF A 2016 GOVERNOR GENERAL’S MEDAL IN ARCHITECTURE

May 19, 2016
by Canadian Architect

The exterior cladding for the project combines natural and charred cedar panels. The density of the panels varies between façades and is optimized for solar orientation.

The exterior cladding for the project combines natural and charred cedar panels. The density of the panels varies between façades and is optimized for solar orientation.

LOCATION Prince George, British Columbia
ARCHITECT MGA—Michael Green Architecture
PHOTOS Ema Peter Photography

The Wood Innovation Design Centre (WIDC) serves as a gathering place for researchers, academics, design professionals and others interested in generating ideas for innovative uses of wood. It shows that tall timber buildings can be economical, safe and environmentally superior options for future urban building.

The eight-storey building stands 29.5 metres tall, making it one of the world’s tallest modern all-timber structures. With this project, the architect sought to demonstrate economical, repeatable technologies for building high-rise structures with timber, in hopes of inspiring institutions, private sector developers and other architects and engineers to embrace this way of building.

The province enacted a site-specific regulation to allow WIDC to be built for academic and office use. With no precedent, the project team had to prove that all life safety requirements could be met with the mass timber design. It performed extensive mock-ups, testing and detailed studies to satisfy the team, the owner and the building officials that its approach was sound—and applicable to future projects.

An all-wood approach to construction was used above the ground floor slab, including the panelized ceiling system, and an elevator core and exit stairs made from CLT.

An all-wood approach to construction was used above the ground floor slab, including the panelized ceiling system, and an elevator core and exit stairs made from CLT.

The architect chose to use no concrete above the ground floor slab, with end-of-life demountability in mind. The mass timber structural elements are exposed, as is the ceiling finish in most spaces, allowing occupants to see and understand the structure around them.

Realized in just 15 months from beginning of design to occupancy, WIDC is a milestone building that features a state-of-the-art distance learning auditorium, classrooms, shops, demonstration areas and offices. The University of Northern British Columbia occupies the lower three floors of the building, providing a Master of Engineering in Integrated Wood Design. Emily Carr University of Art and Design occupies the middle floors; and the upper floors provide office space for government and wood industry-related organizations.

The building exterior is inspired by bark peeling away from the trunk of a tree: bark on the north side is thick to protect from the cold and elements, thinning away towards the south sunlight. The architect chose to clad the building exterior in a mix of natural cedar (left to naturally weather to grey) and charred cedar. Drawing from traditional Japanese and Nordic practices, the layer of char provides insect- and rot-resistance, as well as increased fire resistance. It requires minimal maintenance and creates a beautiful dark patina that changes with the light. For the glazing systems, the firm used a custom-engineered wood curtain wall system.

CONSTRUCTION ASSEMBLY DIAGRAM

Construction Assembly Diagram.

This project has set many precedents internationally, through the extensive engineering research and testing used to prove the safety and validity of mass timber construction techniques. The completed work and proven innovations have removed hurdles and opened up the market for more tall timber projects to come.

:: Jury :: This project celebrates wood as a handsome and sustainable material, and demonstrates its viability for tall buildings. More than just a technological experiment, it combines intelligence, beauty and innovation in its approach to features such as the engineered wood curtain wall system, interior finishes and modulation of sunlight. The jury applauds the research contribution of this exceptional structure.

CLIENT Province of British Columbia—Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training | ARCHITECT TEAM Michael Green, Mingyuk Chen, Carla Smith, Seng Tsoi, Kristalee Berger, Alfonso Bonilla, Jordan van Dijk, Guadalupe Font, Adrienne Gibbs, Jacqueline Green, Asher deGroot, Soo Han, Kristen Jamieson, Vuk Krcmar-Grkavac, Alexander Kobald, Sindhu Mahadevan, Maria Mora | STRUCTURAL Equilibrium Consulting Inc. | MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL MMM Group Ltd. | BUILDING ENCLOSURE RDH Building Science Inc. | CONTRACTOR PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. | LEED MMM Group Ltd. | CIVIL Opus Daytonknight Consultants Ltd. | GEOTECHNICAL Geopacific Consultants Ltd. | LANDSCAPE Jay Lazzarin Landscape | CODE B.R. Thorson Consulting Ltd. | ACOUSTIC Aercoustics Engineering Ltd. | OWNER REPRESENTATIVE David Hubner, Partnerships BC | FIRE CHM Fire Consultants Ltd. | AREA 4,820 m2 | BUDGET $25.1 M | COMPLETION October 2014