Governor General’s Medal Winner: BC Passive House Factory

Prefabricated panels allowed the industrial facility's superstructure to be quickly erected.
Prefabricated panels allowed the industrial facility’s superstructure to be quickly erected.
LOCATION Pemberton, British Columbia
ARCHITECT Hemsworth Architecture
PHOTOS Ema Peter Photography

When BC Passive House asked that the design and construction of its new facility reflects its approach to sustainable home construction, the architect took the message to heart. This demonstration project is made with all-wood construction and exemplifies the client’s investment in  prefabrication, energy efficiency and sustainable design. Used for the manufacturing of the client’s prefab Passive House panels, the 1,500-square-metre facility was conceived as a simple, light-filled wooden box.

The main inspiration for the design came from the belief that the industrial, everyday buildings that make up a vast amount of our built environment can be just as important—and well considered—as our public buildings. Three-hundred-and-sixty-degree clerestory windows provide natural daylight and views to the surrounding mountains. Daylighting and exposed wood finishes inside result in a warm, comfortable and inviting space to work.

A wood slat screen provides differing degrees of solar shading on the various façades.
A wood slat screen provides differing degrees of solar shading on the various façades.

The main structure of the building is Douglas Fir glulam post-and-beam, with solid wood cross-laminated timber panel walls, all manufactured in British Columbia. The roof assembly consists of prefabricated 2×12 panels, which assisted the erection of the glulam structure by offering permanent bracing for the columns and beams during assembly. Using this prefabricated format, the construction team built the superstructure in just eight days. This wood-first approach for the building resulted in a savings of approximately 971 tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to a similar concrete building—or 306 tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to steel.

The exterior of the building was finished with pre-assembled wood screens, made from fir and larch 2x4s. Left untreated to age with the pass of time, the wood screens provide a natural, no-maintenance siding solution.

The screen design incorporated a varied density of slats, particularly over the clerestories, in order to provide greater solar shading on the south and west façades while maintaining the stunning views to the surrounding mountains. The result is a simple, cost effective façade that carefully and subtly responds to, and embraces, its unique and beautiful surroundings.

The glulam post-and-beam wood structure is exposed on the interior, as are the CLT wall panels.
The glulam post-and-beam wood structure is exposed on the interior, as are the CLT wall panels.

The office and meeting spaces were designed to meet the rigourous Passive House Standard. Constructed using BC Passive House’s airtight, double-walled system and high-performance wood windows, the envelope was optimized to dramatically reduce the energy required for heating and cooling. The envelope’s efficiency enables the solar gain through the windows and the heat from the occupants to provide the majority of heating required for the office and meeting rooms. A high-efficiency heat recovery ventilation unit delivers a constant supply of fresh filtered air to the office, making for a healthy, oxygenated work environment. A biomass boiler burns the wood waste from the manufacturing process and distributes that warmth to the shop space through a radiant heat flooring system.

The facility is the first of its kind in North America and will assist the company in its promotion of the Passive House Standard and sustainable, energy-efficient, wood-based construction.

:: Jury :: The factory is both a demonstration of the possibilities of wood for ordinary industrial structures, and a home for an innovative industry producing panels for building. The architect has considered every detail—from the wood structure and panelized roof, to the sloped larch and fir screens, to the beautifully finished interiors. The jury was impressed
by the speed in which the building’s superstructure was constructed: a mere eight days. BC Passive House Factory proves that modest structures can be extraordinary examples of architecture.

CLIENT BC Passive House | ARCHITECT TEAM John Hemsworth | STRUCTURAL Equilibrium Consulting | MECHANICAL Yoneda & Associates | ELECTRICAL BLC Engineering | BUDGET $1.5M | COMPLETION August 2014