Hemlock is readily accessible throughout the coastal forests of British Columbia, but its potential has been largely overlooked. (The Whistler Library) roof system shows that hemlock can be a value-added product, as well as an inherently sustainable one.
Nestled in the British Columbia mountains, the Whistler Public Library is cozy and contemporary, with hemlock as one of its prominent features. The resort municipality’s design guidelines have often resulted in the simple use of post and beam construction with bolt connections. It is a rustic and traditional look. The library, however, stands out as a modern building as it reinterprets these guidelines in a contemporary architectural expression.
The exterior of the building is clad in stone, western red cedar siding and composite panels. The building allows natural light conducive to a good reading environment and is open to panoramic views of the neighbouring park and mountains. A stone fireplace is built into the north wall, and reclaimed Douglas fir millwork throughout enhances the warm feeling of the interior.
The library showcases the versatility and commercial viability of the hemlock species, which was used in many ways throughout construction. Its strength and stiffness make it a preferred material for use in horizontal components and longer spans. During the planning and construction of the library, a strong emphasis was placed on innovative sustainable building strategies in which the use of wood played a dominant role.
The building features an innovative, solid wood roof system comprising prefabricated panels made of solid hemlock, which spans distances up to 13.5 metres. A combination of kingposts and tilted Douglas fir glue laminated timber (glulam) columns support the library roof, which was built strong enough to retain the large amount of snow for which the mountain community is well known. The prefabricated, hemlock panel system used for the roof met all the needs for the form and layout of the building.