Wesbrook Community Centre

Performance results achieved with passive design, active HVAC

The two-storey, 2,900m2 Wesbrook Community Centre is located at the heart of the rapidly growing Wesbrook Village neighbourhood, on the Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia. With construction completed in September 2015, the community centre acts as a hub for all community activities. This new municipal landmark includes a gymnasium and fitness centre, art and dance studios, and multipurpose rooms, all intended to further strengthen the community and promote social interaction and gathering.

By Esther Gutman

The design team – consisting of Francl Architecture and Public: Architecture + Communications – collaborated with the UBC Sustainability office to explore alternative approaches to optimize environmental strategies and life cycle perfromance.
Two schematic structural designs were explored, one predominantly concrete, the other predominantly wood. After careful consideration, the wood option was selected over concrete due to its lower environmental impact. The hybrid solution uses Cross-Laminated Timber [CLT] panels and glulam columns and beams for the gym, atrium, and dance studio. Elsewhere, steel columns, glulam beams, a composite steel deck, and concrete were used for the multipurpose area. The mass timber elements provide a one-hour fire rating and a beautifully durable interior finishing for these high-impact rooms.

The Wesbrook Community Centre is organized around a central linear atrium that serves as both a gathering space for community events and a circulation corridor. As such, it achieves multiple goals of community congregation and a variety of ways to travel from one room to another.

The building massing is divided into three main elements each connected to the central atrium:

  • 1. The gymnasium, fitness centre, washroom core, teen centre, and service rooms are grouped together, forming a rectangle on the north side of the atrium.
  • 2. The meeting and multipurpose rooms are to the south and rotated true south to take better advantage of natural light and to facilitate entry to and from the adjacent University Hill Secondary School.
  • 3. The dance studio is located on the upper floor, hovering above the mostly glazed café space, which is situated next to the main building entrance.

The exterior cladding materials were chosen to complement the emerging character of Wesbrook Village, which reflects the natural materials to be found in the nearby Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Materials such as granite and wood complement the surrounding forest and the escarpment that drops down from the campus to the waters edge. Split-face granite masonry envelopes the first floor and encloses the gymnasium. This plinth visually anchors the walls while a warm aluminum cladding wraps the second storey. A slight variation in panel width, colour, and depth brings textural quality to the facade. Exterior panels of cedar cladding are used on the upper floor facade as an outward expression of the exposed interior CLT panels.

Designed with environmental sustainability in mind, the primary initiative is an ambitious energy use target of 160 kWh/m2 per year, equivalent to that of a LEED Gold building. This objective was achieved by using a high-performance envelope with a reduced glazing area of less than 40%, positioned to maximize daylighting, passive ventilation, high efficiency Thermenex® [Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning] HVAC technology, and dynamic lighting systems.

A Thermenex® hybrid mechanical natural ventilation design combined the interconnected floor spaces, operable windows in the multipurpose rooms and offices, and digitally controlled relief air dampers to create a natural stack effect. Under suitable outdoor temperature and wind conditions, the digital controls system will throttle or fully close airflow to specific rooms where temperature and carbon dioxide are controlled to specified acceptable levels. An interactive touch screen display was added to indicate behavioral changes in real-time for users. This feature helps users visualize the various types of energy uses throughout the building.
Daylight bioremediation swales control sedimentary materials and improve water quality through the stormwater collected through to the south campus flood control retention tanks. To reduce water consumption, low-flow water fixtures are used throughout the facility.
Artificial lighting, with high efficiency fixtures, is implemented throughout all spaces of the building. The lighting system is automated using daylight harvest controls, zone switched luminaires, occupancy sensors, dimming ballasts tied daylight sensors, and photoelectric cells.

With programming and activities running for just over a year since its completion, the Wesbrook Community Centre has become the living room of the UBC community, connecting residents of all ages for sport, recreation, arts, and culture.

Project Credits

  • Client UBC Properties Trust
  • Architect Francl Architecture - Public Architecture and Communication
  • Structural Engineer Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
  • Mechanical Engineer Rocky Point Engineering
  • Electrical Engineer Applied Engineering Solutions
  • Construction Manager Scott Construction
  • Engineered Wood Fabricator StructureLam Products LP
  • Photos Exterior: Robert Stefanowicz; Interior: Camille Esquivel

Project Performance

  • Energy intensity [building and process energy] = 154 kW/m2/yr
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building = 60%
  • Potable water consumption from municipal sources = 9,123 L/occupant/yr
  • Reduction in potable water consumption relative to reference building = 33.27%

Esther Gutman is a graduate of the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, and the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Francl Architecture - www.franclarchitecture.com

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