DAILY NEWS Dec 17, 2012 7:38 PM - 0 comments

Free-floating wood stair captivates at new UBC building

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A new Earth Sciences Building officially opened on November 19 along the Main Mall of the University of British Columbia. The large 14,750-sq.m complex is designed as two wings around a central atrium, but its most unusual feature is its prominent use of wood, making it "North America's largest panelized wood structure."

Designed by Perkins + Will architects with Equilibrium Consultants as structural engineers, the five storey structure combines solid and cross-laminated wood, and wood-concrete composite panels.

Its centrepiece is a free-floating glulam staircase that rises through the atrium. The extensive use of wood in the project  — 1,320 tonnes of wood materials — sequesters 2,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The building is registered for LEED Gold certification.

Costing $55 million, the building is host to a raft of different departments, including the Department of Earth and Ocean Science, the Department of Statistics and the Pacific Museum of the Earth. It has laboratories, research spaces, a lecture theatre, and 9-metre high laboratories with floor-to-ceiling windows on the first level.

The province expects the centre to help B.C. become a "global hub" for the mineral exploration industry as it supports the university's research in sustainable mining practices and climate change. It will be used by 7,000 students and was built with donations from several large mining companies, including Goldcorp and Teck Resources.

Consultants on the design team include Stantec (mechanical and plumbing), Acumen (electrical), Core Group (civil), Trow (geotechnical), GHL (building code), Brown Strachan (acoustics), Aqua-Coast Engineering (building envelope), and Maples Argo Architects (laboratory design).

Hemisphere Engineering recently co-authored a Tall Wood study which provides a structural solution for the construction of timber high rises reaching 30 storeys in zones with high seismic risk. The report has been featured on CNN and the Economist.

Architects Perkins + Will have developed a close relationship with the University of B.C., having an in-house research team that combines its efforts with the university's research on life-cycle assessments and LEED implementation of green buildings.


Free-floating glulam staircase in the atrium at the Earth Sciences Building, University of British Columbia. Photograph courtesy Perkins + Will Architects.   Photographer Michael Elkan.
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Caption: Free-floating glulam staircase in the atrium at the Ear...
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