Canadian Consulting Engineer

Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion -Structural Engineering

The Vancouver Convention Centre expansion has transformed Vancouver's waterfront. Resting upon a marine deck that is supported on nearly 1,000 steel pile pipes buried 60 metres deep, the new building ...

October 1, 2009   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Vancouver Convention Centre expansion has transformed Vancouver’s waterfront. Resting upon a marine deck that is supported on nearly 1,000 steel pile pipes buried 60 metres deep, the new building has been described as “a gleaming jewel with a fuzzy top.” It is located to the west of the original convention centre, and it leans out over Burrard Inlet, with an expansive green roof, dramatic sculptural forms in glass, steel and wood, and massive steel trusses and articulated structural beams. Glotman Simpson were the structural engineers and faced a challenge as large as the building –several orders of magnitude larger and more complicated than a normal building structure.

Eccentric braced bays

The heart of the structural solution for the building is to have regular bays of multi-storey trusses, some 30 metres tall, and beams anchored to eccentric braced bays for seismic resistance. Eccentric braced bays were chosen due to their effectiveness, simplicity, constructability and cost, bearing in mind the project was fast-tracked for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Deep trusses provide openings and parking space

For the convention centre to accommodate up to 15,000 visitors at once, large spaces and open volumes were necessary. At the same time, the roof height was restricted to avoid blocking the view of nearby residents. The structure therefore had to have long spans with heavy loading, yet within a minimal depth.

Faced with these constraints, the design uses the storey-deep trusses for double duty. They are used both for support and to accommodate door openings and passageways. As well, an interstitial space in the trusses between the main exhibition hall and the main floor below was used as a parking level for 443 cars.

To provide spectacular views from inside, the building has an expansive perimeter of glass walls, which meant the locations available for bracing were limited and required careful distribution.

Another consideration was the green roof. The cost of supporting the heavy weight of the growing medium over large spans was a concern. The project team honed the roof to 150 mm depth on the main building and 300 mm on the westerly slopes where access was permitted. The solution provided savings compared to using a material such as aluminum panels on this highly visible roof.

Leaning Columns

Leaning columns on the north face make a dramatic statement. They overhang the sea wall and reach the highest point of the structure, 44 metres above. To meet the seismic requirements, Glotman Simpson devised a unique diagonal brace with a linear spring composed of a series of disc spring washers. The device acts as a self-centering seismic resisting mechanism for the building. Patent applications are in process for the technology.

BIM, steel 3D modelling and fabrication

Glotman Simpson took full advantage of 3D modeling and design, and delivering documentations electronically. Early in the design development they proposed using Building Information Modeling (BIM) for the structural engineering. They also proposed using Tekla software, a program commonly used by contractors to create steel shop drawings, together with SAP2000 and Revit Structure.

The process allowed steel fabrication to proceed quickly and showed design opportunities and potential problems ahead of fabrication. The process also allowed the full use of pre-purchased steel and helped to maintain budgets.

Early estimates of the steel quantities at the conceptual design were within 5% of final built quantities (17,498 tons), covering approximately 420,000 square metres of irregular and unique structure.

The total building cost was $885 million, of which the steel structure was $85 million.

Project: Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion

Award-winning firm -structural engineers: Glotman Simpson Consulting Engineers (Robert D. Simpson, P. Eng., Geoffrey Glotman, P. Eng., Philip Espezel, P. Eng., Antonio Moino)

Owner: Pavco/VCCEP

Architects: LMN, Musson Cattell Mackey, DA

Other key players: Westmar Worley Parsons, Stantec Consulting, Schenke/Bawol, Lock MacKinnon Domingo, PCL Constructors, Canron Western Constructors (steel contractor), Dowco, Levelton, Canam, Berkeley Engineering, Earth Tech.


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