North Cowichan Municipal Hall

The Municipal Hall for North Cowichan, B.C. is located on the west side of the Trans-Canada highway on a site shared with the municipal works yard and operations buildings. The parking lot to the south of the municipal hall that separated it from the other buildings, proved to be the ideal site for the new addition, enabling improvements to be made to vehicle circulation and permitting construction to take place in phases. The existing Municipal Hall is a two-storey structure that took advantage of the sloping site to achieve grade access from the adjacent parking lots to both the upper and lower floors. The new addition was designed on the lower land directly south of the existing building, enabling an efficient connection to be made via stairs between related program elements in the old and new portions of the building. The location also maximizes the opportunities for daylighting the new structure. The expansion provides additional offices, meeting rooms, a customer service counter, male and female washrooms with showers and lockers, along with open collaborative work stations. The main public entrance to the Municipal Hall is now located on the east side of the new expansion. The second floor of the new building connects directly into the lower floor of the existing structure, providing easy access to both administrative services and council chambers.

Wood Use

The extensive and prominent use of wood both internally and externally was a conscious decision from the outset of this project. Wood has many advantages over other materials, including being a renewable resource, having a favourable strength to weight ratio, being familiar to local building trades, and offering the opportunity for prefabrication of building components. The structure is almost entirely made of wood. All of the new interior and exterior walls were constructed with wood framing and the main structure is comprised of gluelaminated (glulam) beams supported by steel columns. The roof structure throughout was designed with wood joists that combine wood top and bottom chords with a web made from galvanized steel pipes. The interior design uses wood in several different ways. Wood doors and frames were selected for the offices, and most of the trim, including base boards, is fir. A feature slatted wood ceiling is used above the main circulation routes, providing acoustical absorption for the open office space and concealing some of the main mechanical systems. The elevator shaft in the new entry hall was detailed with wood cladding panels that provide a warm focal point in the two-storey circulation space. Millwork is fir veneer finished. Externally, the building features naturally durable Western red cedar cladding and wood soffits on the roof overhangs.