WoodTALKS Speaks to the Importance of Integrated Design

By Kelly McCloskey
Tree Frog Forestry News
September 7, 2018
Category: Special Feature
Region: Canada, Canada West

This week, 800 buyers, sellers and specifiers of value-added wood products have gathered in Whistler for the Global Buyers Mission (GBM), Canada’s largest show of its kind. And on day one, WoodTALKS—a wood design and construction education event held in conjunction with the GBM—was front and centre.

First to the podium was architect Bo Helliwell of Blue Sky Architecture, renowned for his distinctive and stunning West Coast timber architecture. Helliwell spoke of the principles that inform his firm’s design approach and that are integrated into every project they undertake. This includes a focus on the building site for early guidance, optimizing natural light, staying organic with shapes, providing structure and shelter space, celebrating local weather, using natural materials and colour, ensuring craftsmanship, using natural energy and seizing opportunities where they arise. In addition to his generous use of Western Red Cedar and Douglas-fir, Helliwell spoke of the importance of contractor familiarity with timber design.

Peter Moonen of Wood WORKS! BC’s fame, presented next on wood construction and durability and “what you think or may not know to make wood last”. Moonen’s bottom line is that designers and builders must have an understanding of the factors likely to impact wood in use and integrate their design and treatment solutions to allow wood to reach its full potential. Most important in this regard are moisture considerations or as Moonen says, “following the raindrop and anticipate where it is going to flow”. The key being to cover exposed surfaces, particularly end-grains and elevating the connections above the snow or water pooling level. Other hazards to avoid include colour degradation from UV light, staining from galvanized nails and condensation where different products overlap.

Architect Oliver Lang’s information-rich presentation was a look into the future as it relates to society’s housing challenge of ensuring livability, sustainability and affordability. His integrated software-driven solution—not unlike automation in car manufacturing—involves establishing a base system or platform with almost unlimited opportunity for variation and repetition. The building solution that best meets the challenge lies in the convergence of mass timber and modular building systems with software engineering and robotically assisted off-site prefabrication. But the future is near with the city of Esquimalt’s recent approval of his 12-storey, 83-unit Corvette Landing project. The modular construction will make for a significantly faster completion of the project; approximately nine months from first dig to move-in day.

Shelley Craig of Urban Arts Architecture spoke of her firm’s 100 Mile Building journey with the Radium Hot Springs Community Hall and Library and how it brought life to the important goal of “buying local”. The final design approach supported the local wood-based economy, incorporated mass timber solutions and involved the community throughout the design and building process. The result: more than 80% of the project value was sourced, built and installed by individuals or suppliers within a 100-mile radius of Radium. Quite an accomplishment—a first in Canada—since the town lies in a long valley between two of BC’s largest mountain ranges.

The day’s final presentation by architect John Hemsworth and engineer Robert Malczyk was a touching story about Rebuilding the Heart of a Small Community, one hockey arena at a time. The impetus was their earlier authorship of a prospective report on wood recreational facilities (given that two-thirds of BC’s 190 arenas are more than 35 years old), commissioned by the Wood Enterprise Coalition. The story became a reality when the hypothetical town used in the report—Hazelton, BC—hired them to replace their 44-year-old, volunteer-built arena. And although residents had known the foundation was shifting, they were not expecting the design team to declare their arena too dangerous to keep open, right in the middle of a hockey practice. A major setback, given the important role the arena played as a place for people to come together, the community rallied behind the new, cost effective venture, that will redefine the new heart of Hazelton. In an engaging tag-team approach, their presentation was the perfect wrap for an impressive day of WoodTALKS.

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