omb Designs a New Addition to the College of New Caledonia’s Campus

The Heavy Mechanical Trades Training Facility by the office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers (omb) is the newest addition to the College of New Caledonia’s main campus in Prince George, BC.

Photo credit: Andrew Latreille Photography
Photo credit: Andrew Latreille Photography

The LEED Gold educational building supports the college’s mission to provide access to lifelong learning for the communities throughout the region.

In response to the region’s rugged natural landscapes and resources, the project addresses the need for high-quality heavy mechanical trades training and the development of expertise to service this equipment.

The $18 million building includes state-of-the-art educational training workshops, engine testing labs, tool and heavy equipment training aid storage, and computer training spaces. Student safety, low building maintenance, high-durability, and the acknowledgement that the college is principally a winter campus, were additional paramount aspects of the brief.

Photo credit: Andrew Latreille Photography
Photo credit: Andrew Latreille Photography

The Heavy Mechanical Trades Training Facility was governed by strict schedule constraints that compressed design, documentation, and bidding to six months and limited construction to twelve.

With modesty and authenticity of vernacular industrial typologies rooted in the design approach, the architectural team translated this concept into five key design elements: enclosure, light, wood, masonry, and sustainability.

The building’s enclosure is a simple folded expression enveloping the flexible long-span internal spaces. The weathering steel façade is inspired by the steel links of heavy-duty caterpillar tracks.

The repetitive panels incorporate a subtle crease to improve their strength; reducing the required material thickness while introducing a dynamic shadow-play.

The facility is further defined by the bold interplay of solid and void, tempered by abundant daylight and views over a row of mature oak trees.

Photo credit: Andrew Latreille Photography

Careful consideration was given to the low arc of the northern sun and the atmospheric clarity present throughout the year. Sunlight is a key ingredient in the building’s ephemeral appearance, enabling the cladding to behave like a sundial with shadows on the creased façade getting longer and shorter throughout the day and across the seasons.

Structure is treated as architectural finish throughout the building to express the immediacy of industrial building and in response to the accelerated construction schedule.

Modular prefabricated laminated veneer lumber (LVL) roof panels were carefully designed to accommodate integrated services to further reduce on-site construction time.

Photo credit: Andrew Latreille Photography

The remaining superstructure is exposed steel and masonry, celebrated for its rawness. Masonry is given a ground face finish, relating to the other neighbouring trades buildings through texture and materiality.

Sustainable alterations such as passive solar orientation, super- insulated building envelope assemblies, in-floor radiant heating, displacement ventilation, and heat recovery systems reinforce the LEED Gold Certified building. Locally sourced veneered plywood and blackened steel are also used throughout to promote healthy interior environments for students and instructors.

This 25,000 sq.ft building and 22,000 sq.ft works yard concludes the College’s long-term masterplan for a cluster of trades-focused buildings, which share resources and encourage healthy interaction between several trades disciplines.

The masterplan provides a central courtyard and clear pedestrian axis extending through three trades buildings and connecting to the main campus building.

Photo credit: Andrew Latreille Photography