Trades Training Complex by Diamond Schmitt opens at Okanagan College

Photo courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects
Photo courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

Okanagan College wanted its Trades Renewal and Expansion project to inspire the next generation of builders. Stepping up to the challenge, Diamond Schmitt Architects in association with David Nairne + Associates have delivered a building that meets today’s most demanding measures of green design. The $35-million Trades Training Complex has officially opened at the Kelowna, British Columbia campus.

The expansion includes 6,237 square metres (67,000 sq. ft.) of new learning space configured around a soaring three-storey atrium. A retrofit of an additional 4385 square metres (47,200 sq. ft.) connects the building with three existing structures that together unify and give a public face to the new trades complex.

“Achieving extraordinary sustainability targets and integrating the various functional program elements were the primary motivating forces in the design,” said Diamond Schmitt associate Sarah Low. “An equally important design objective was to normalize sustainability and show that it can be achieved in everyday buildings.”

By applying sustainable design principles to building orientation, footprint and massing and by integrating daylighting, natural ventilation and managing heat gain to maximize the passive energy potential, the new building is on track for the following trifecta of environmental excellence:

  • LEED Platinum certification
  • Living Building Challenge Petal certification
  • Net Zero for new construction
  • In addition, the renewal portion targets LEED for Existing Buildings Certification LEED EBOM Gold

One of the main goals of the project was to consolidate the trades shops to be next to each other and to also integrate the Trades Complex into the rest of the campus. The key strategy for achieving this was to incorporate social spaces, study spaces and student amenities such as a café in the Trades area to attract students from other departments and disciplines.

Entering the new building under a large wood canopy anticipates the timber-lined and exposed wood structure of the atrium. Operable clerestory windows fill the space with natural light and provide stack-effect natural ventilation. Radiant heating from below and cooling from above is embedded in the concrete floors and ceiling throughout the new construction. The facility is programmed for nighttime cooling in the semi-desert conditions of the BC interior.

The window-to-wall ratio is kept to just 30 percent with solar shading provided by horizontal fins and a perforated metal screen. Horizontal louvers on the south-facing facade are 1.2 metres deep to prevent direct sun from contacting the concrete slab floor. Dozens of solar tubes in the roof over the new trades shops and labs cast bright, indirect light to the shop floors. The 15-degree south-facing slope of the large atrium and trade shop roofs accommodate a photovoltaic array that will generate enough energy to offset the projected 74kWh/m2/year of energy consumption to achieve the Net Zero target. The building also takes advantage of waste heat generated by a nearby municipal wastewater treatment plant to help heat the facility.

“Gaining a deep understanding from the client of how the program spaces would be used, then inputting this to energy models, and referencing our own ecoMetrics databank, allowed us to achieve the optimal alignment of program needs and energy efficiency,” added Low.

Landscaping also played a part in the sustainable directive. The Living Building Challenge requires edibles be planted, for which the local conditions are well suited to almond trees, lavender and other herbs.

“Today we are proud to be celebrating the opening of our new trades complex,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton. “This is a space that truly reflects the importance of skilled trades training and the value our students bring to our communities. It is one of our most sustainable buildings and is intended to showcase latest technologies and inspire students and others.”