The University of British Columbia’s Vancouver-based Forest Sciences Centre is, as its name suggests, an academic and research hub for the science and study of forestry, forest ecology, wood products technology, and innovative wood construction. Designed to showcase what is possible using B.C. forest products, the facility pushed the limits of wood construction at a time when building codes were still catching up to advances in wood technology and construction. Keen to use as much wood as possible, the design team found a solution that was at once practical and innovative—dividing the program into different uses to meet existing building codes.
The plan is bisected by a glazed atrium, with an L-shaped administration building of light-frame wood construction to the south and west and a rectangular laboratory building of concrete construction to the northeast. The laboratory, dubbed the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing, is home to North America’s first robotic CNC timber processor. The atrium takes the form of a five-storey galleria, its glass roof supported on thirteen-metre parallel strand lumber “tree” columns, which re-create the feel of a forest canopy. The combination of sprinklers and automated smoke vents, together with tempered glass in the windows and skylights, provides a level of fire separation between the buildings equivalent to that of an unenclosed street.
Two decades after its completion, the facility continues to impress visitors with its innovations in wood construction, and its atrium that is coveted campus-wide by students looking for an inspiring place to study.