BC Hydro Operations Centre – Port Alberni


Port Alberni, B.C.


2,100 square metres




BC Hydro



Structural Engineer


Engineered Wood Fabricator

Mercer Mass Timber LLC

Project Materials

Glue-laminated timber (Glulam)


Solid-sawn heavy timber

Structural Systems

Hybrid / Other

Passive House / High performance

Post + beam


Striking hybrid wood and steel roof unifies BC Hydro’s indoor and outdoor workers

BC Hydro’s Port Alberni facility featured wood so prominently, and successfully, that it inspired another wood-forward facility at BC Hydro’s Maple Ridge location.

  • The curved hybrid glue-laminated timber (glulam) and steel roof covers the warehouse, office and large outdoor area.
  • The building is located in Canada’s highest seismic zone.
  • Douglas-fir is used in the solid beams, millwork and doors, and western red cedar on the ceilings.

A post-disaster operations centre built for strength, flexibility and durability.

The 2,100-square-metre facility is located on the outskirts of Port Alberni, British Columbia (B.C). It brings together the provincial electrical utility’s indoor and outdoor workers for the first time under a single unifying roof—a metaphoric bridge connecting these historically independent departments. The building is located in Canada’s highest seismic zone and needed to function as a post-disaster operations centre. As a result, it has been designed for strength, flexibility and durability.

Under the province’s Climate Action Plan, BC Hydro is required to work towards carbon neutrality in its operations, and thus this project targeted high standards of environmental design and energy performance. The architects’ approach was to maximize building performance using passive design strategies, and only then add active environmental control systems.

The program, which includes offices and warehouse spaces, is arranged on a single storey with a partial mezzanine. The plan is elongated in the east-west direction to maximize the benefits of solar exposure and optimize control for daylighting and energy performance. Louvered skylights bring daylight deep into the building, while the double-height volumes assist with natural ventilation.

The building envelope is highly insulated and incorporates high-performance double glazing to reduce energy demand for heating and cooling. Primary energy comes from an extensive geo-exchange system.

Wood inside and out

The wood roof is the most striking feature—a hybrid of wood and steel with open web steel joists used in the warehouse portion of the building. The office portion consists of a braced, steel frame supporting glue-laminated timber (glulam) beams on the main column lines. These in turn support horizontal glulam purlins that are cross-braced by solid Douglas-fir members. The interior is warm for a utility building, with vertical grain Douglas-fir for the doors and millwork, and custom western red cedar slatted ceilings.

Sunny daytime exterior view of 2,100 square metre two storey BC Hydro Operations Centre in Port Alberni showing wood exterior, including office area with a roof of braced, steel frame supporting glue-laminated timber (glulam) beams on the main column lines
BC Hydro Operations Facility – Maple Ridge

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Exterior nighttime view of UBC Campus Energy Centre with transparent glass design and glue-laminated timber (glulam) post and beam frame, with cross-laminated timber (CLT) enclosed walls and roof
UBC Campus Energy Centre

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Interior daytime view of low rise mass timber constructed UBC Bioenergy Research and Demo Facility showing a group of engineers sitting at a desk surrounded by wood paneling walls and ceilings supported by large Glue-laminated timber (Glulam) beams and columns
UBC Bioenergy Research Demonstration Facility

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Exterior cloudy daytime view of Alexandra District Energy Utility Expansion showing glue-laminated timber (glulam) columns and beams which frame the structure, and cross-laminated timber (CLT) used in the wall and roof panels
Alexandra District Energy Utility Expansion

Engineered wood was used in Richmond’s high-tech geothermal utility building to address the weight of a green roof as well as the significant spans and clear heights required to house large equipment.

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