We wanted to use wood in this building to soften and warm the atmosphere and provide a pleasant experience for the people using the building. Studies have shown that a visible expression of wood has beneficial effects on the sympathetic nervous system, and the use of wood is a proven strategy in evidence-based design to create human-friendly environments conducive to healing and learning.
The city of Salmon Arm is located in the Shuswap region of British Columbia's southern interior. With a population of 18,000, the city extends along Salmon Arm Reach, where the Salmon River flows into Shuswap Lake. Over the more than 100 years since its incorporation, the economy of Salmon Arm has depended on agriculture, forestry and tourism. The Salmon Arm Law Courts and Municipal Hall Complex was a landmark civic project. Planned in conjunction with the adjacent civic park, it has become a major focal point for the community.
A building of this size and type was required by the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC) to be of noncombustible construction. However, the architects made a conscious decision to incorporate wood for both structure and finishes, wherever it was functionally appropriate and would enhance the visual appeal of the building. BCBC permitted heavy timber construction for roof structures in sprinklered non-combustible buildings; thus it was possible to use glulam columns and beams to create the roof structure over the two-storey public concourse, and also to define a band of clerestory windows along the main facade of the building facing the public plaza.