West Vancouver Community Centre wins inaugural ONCE Award

During the World Architecture Festival (WAF), the world’s biggest architectural event, over 235 projects from 55 countries were invited to submit to the ONCE award and Hughes Condon Marler Architects’ (HCMA) West Vancouver Community Centre, was one of two projects announced as the winner for accessible design.

The ONCE Foundation for Cooperation and the Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities, is a nonprofit charitable foundation which pursues social aims and was constituted by the Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE) for reasons of social solidarity with disabled people. The ONCE Foundation is a non-profit charitable foundation with the objective of implementing work-related training and employment for people with disabilities, promoting the creation of universally accessible environments, products and services.

WAF is working with the ONCE Foundation to promote improvements to disabled access in design and offers this award opportunity exclusively to WAF shortlisted entrants.

“The West Vancouver Community Centre is an integrated community health and recreation centre. As such it was critical that the highest level of accessibility be integrated into the project. HCMA’s approach acknowledges that typical accessibility regulations, by necessity, are generic in nature and thus exclude many individuals. Our focus was on achieving accessibility beyond statutory requirements for a full range of disabilities experienced by all community members, including both old and young.

This project was designed with a comprehensive strategy focused on learning from real life situations and not relying on generic accessibility codes. The strategies employed involve making the design strategies seamless so that both able bodied and disabled users have equal access,” said Darryl Condon, Principal, HCMA .

The facility represents a dynamic approach to community centre design. It is a truly integrated wellness centre, containing recreation, arts and social services with a full-service health centre. The design strategy unifies a dispersed grouping of community facilities and is the social and civic heart of the West Vancouver community.

Examples of the facility’s democratic accessibility include the minimal use of doors (such as at washroom and change room entries), transparent, clear and logical circulation patterns, visually contrasting doors and tactile flooring, handrails in public corridors, benches in corridors, signage that is both contrasting and tactile (raised letters and Braille), magnetic induction hearing assistance loops, diffused lighting (avoiding spot lights), making all sanitary facilities accessible and using power assisted door operators on all entries (interior and exterior) and washrooms.

“West Vancouver has a long history of architectural excellence and strong public participation. We put accessibility and inclusion at the forefront in designing our new community centre, and it honours all of our citizens to have been recognized internationally for this strong step forward.” said Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones.

The project incorporates a number of sustainable design strategies including geothermal ground source system, shared energy systems, natural ventilation, day-lighting, re-use of structural elements, recycled/sensitive materials and storm water retention and is anticipating LEED® Gold certification.