February 14, 2008

Vancouver convention center goes for the gold

  • The sustainability showcase will house the 2010 Winter Olympics media center
    LMN Architects



    As the world’s best athletes converge on Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the West Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre will seek the gold as well.

    The building, which will house the more than 7,000 broadcast media members covering the games, is targeting LEED gold certification by the Canada Green Building Council, making it one of the greenest convention centers in the world.

    The convention center will serve as a visual ambassador of our region’s commitment to sustainability with a wealth of innovative features. Situated on Vancouver’s waterfront, the convention center’s integrative design brings together the complex ecology, vibrant local culture and built environment, accentuating their interrelationships through the building’s architecture.

    Seattle-based LMN Architects, in collaboration with Vancouver architects Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership and Downs/Archambault & Partners, designed the center.

    Characteristic of the Pacific Northwest’s “green” conscience, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the games has been committed to making sustainability part of everything it does from the design of facilities to responsible procurement practices to greenhouse gas emission offsets. For the committee, sustainability means managing the social, economic and environmental impacts and opportunities of the games to produce lasting benefits both locally and globally.

    Image courtesy of LMN
    The West Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre will seek a LEED gold rating when it is completed in 2009. Among its features is a 5.5-acre green roof.

    The organizing committee is using LEED criteria to guide building activities as well as encourage partners to follow a shared sustainability vision. Though it’s not one of the facilities being built by the committee, the convention center, which is currently under construction, will more than meet the committee’s energy efficiency goals.

    A natural habitat

    One of the convention center’s most striking features is a landscaped, 5.5-acre living roof, which is equal to more than four football fields in size.

    The building’s design features a series of folded forms introduced in the surrounding landscape and building geometry that gradually step up and culminate with the massive green roof. Covered with more than 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses, this living structure will be provide natural habitat as well as an extensive permeable surface for absorbing rainwater and slowing stormwater runoff.

    The convention center will connect with the existing harbor greenbelt, extending the public path and bike trail across the site and visually linking to the current park system, which includes Stanley Park at the city’s western tip.

    The convention center also will restore part of the marine environment. Working with marine biologists, LMN developed plans to restore the shoreline and create new underwater habitat as part of the building’s foundation.

    Wise water use

    Hand in hand with the growing awareness of climate change is the recognition that potable water is a finite resource. The complex challenge of wise water use was tackled by developing an intricate water conservation and reuse strategy that features a black water treatment plant and desalination.

    Black water treatment, which involves processing the building’s sewage water to render it appropriate for other uses, will provide about 80 percent of the gray water needs for toilet flushing in the building and supplemental water for irrigation of the living roof.

    Additionally, the building will have a desalination plant which can draw water from the harbor and process it to meet additional non-potable water demands. As a result of these water conservation measures, the convention center will put minimal demand on the public utility grid.

    The building also capitalizes on the site’s waterfront location by using the constant temperature of seawater for the heat-pump system to cool the building during the warmer months and heat it during the cooler months.

    Healthy interiors

    Not only does the design of the convention center reflect the city’s sustainability conscience, Vancouver’s vibrant urban character is embedded in the architecture.

    The building’s entire perimeter will be enclosed in an ultra-clear structural glass envelope that allows for maximum daylighting of the public spaces within the building. This extroverted, community-friendly design will create a strong visual connection to the outside, blending the interior and exterior.

    Inside the building, the experience is enriched through extensive use of local Douglas fir and hemlock wood finished surfaces. The building will have natural ventilation in many of the public circulation and pre-function spaces to support healthy indoor-air quality.

    Social sustainability

    The convention center design includes social sustainability attributes as well.

    Encircling the building will be more than 120,000 square feet of pedestrian walkways, plaza, festival and informal gathering spaces for cultural activity. An additional 90,000 square feet of retail space will animate the public facades.

    Two of Vancouver’s major downtown streets culminate at either side of the building. The architecture capitalizes on these view corridors using the building forms to frame public open spaces, which extend the city’s urban pattern to the waterfront.

    Approximately 14 acres of land and 8 acres of water are being developed for the project. Scheduled to be complete in 2009, this project will triple the space of the convention center providing an additional 1.2 million square feet of exhibit, ballroom and meeting space over four city blocks. A 300-foot covered corridor will link the west facility to the existing east facility.

    As the accomplishments of athletes from around the world are broadcast from the West Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre come winter 2010, the facility will serve as a vision of achievement of another kind. Imagine thousands of media members broadcasting live to millions of viewers while sitting under one of the largest living roofs in Canada.

    With so many eyes upon it, the convention center offers the world a look at what sustainable design can achieve when it goes for the gold.

    Mark Reddington is a design partner of LMN Architects. Tom Burgess is the project manager for the West Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre.

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