Canadian Architect

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Gulf Islands Operations Centre

RAIC Awards--Green Building Award

May 1, 2007
by Canadian Architect

ARCHITECT Larry Mcfarland Architects Ltd.

LOCATION Sidney, British Columbia

The design and construction of a new Operations Centre for the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve presented Parks Canada with an opportunity to create a facility with a minimal ecological footprint, fully in keeping with its core values of environmental stewardship and its mandate of preservation and protection of our national heritage site and wilderness area.

Located on the waterfront in Sidney, BC, this three-storey building serves as the headquarters for the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, established in 2003, and includes facilities for marina operations, administrative staff, and an interpretive centre. It demonstrates how natural resources found on a site can be fully integrated within a project to minimize its environmental footprint to create a building that is highly evocative of the place in which it is built.

A holistic design approach has enabled the sustainable systems to be fully integrated with the architectural expression of the building. The project utilizes only off-the-shelf products, proven technology and local design and construction resources, resulting in a building that interacts intimately with the site upon which it is built. While demonstrating how it is possible to drastically reduce the consumption of energy and water, it provides an exceptional indoor environment and was constructed using a significant amount of local and recycled materials.

In recognition of this project’s exceptional indoor environmental quality and outstanding achievements in land, water, energy and material conservation, Parks Canada has been awarded a LEED Canada Platinum rating by the Canada Green Building Council for its vision and achievement with the successful completion of this environmentally friendly facility. It is the first building to be given a Platinum rating in Canada, and is the first federal government project to follow through with Public Works and Government Services Canada’s commitment to LEED Gold or higher for its new buildings.

Jury Comments

The architect successfully employed daylighting strategies, approaches to natural ventilation and air movement in the development of the building’s dominant section profile. Architecturally, the building siting takes advantage of the coastal harbour location while modestly situating itself behind the residential buildings on the street frontage. Extensive use of BC wood, throughout both the interior and exterior as structural elements and finishes, is in striking contrast to the raw metal used for the exterior building envelope and underside structural roof deck, resulting in a dynamic and exuberant expression.–Neil Munro, FRAIC

One of the greatest and most exciting challenges of green building design is how it shapes our buildings, and how the idea shapes the form. Through sensitive site integration, the shape of the roofline, the faade’s varying textures, and the use of wood as a primary building material, the project is an elegant and thoughtful answer to this very fundamental issue.–Guy Favreau, MRAIC

As RAIC’s inaugural Award of Excellence for Green Building, this project clearly exemplifies that environmental stewardship can convey both modesty and beauty, simultaneously. The Operations Centre’s protection and rehabilitation of marine and terrestrial zones speaks to the client’s and designer’s true appreciation of the values anchoring the core principles of sustainability. Each project must uncover its dormant inherent environmental opportunities, and this design wonderfully celebrates the sustainable notion of resilience. While the roof form is a lyrical expression of marine imagery, it equally speaks to sun, air, and natural, local materials. This building thrives on its passive characteristics (witnessed in the building’s sectional composition and resolution) and while it benefits from active green technologies (solar panels and ocean energy geo-exchange), neither of these components diminish its overall site response. If all buildings and neighbourhoods could walk this tightrope between low- and high-tech, socio-economic constraints and contextual sensitivity, then the 2010 imperative and 2030 net-zero challenge will in fact become more than simply an ecological response to climate change as we move towards a holistic model of the sustainable communities we one day hope to live in.–Danny Pearl




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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