Winning architects, structural engineers and project teams enthral and inspire at 2013 BC Wood Design Awards


Canadian Design and Construction Report special feature

Coastal BC swept the 2013 Wood WORKS! BC Wood Design Awards, with projects of the winning architects and structural engineers located in and around Vancouver and the Gulf Islands, including three University of BC (UBC) campus projects.

More than 350 design and building professionals, including architects, engineers, project teams, industry sponsors and guests gathered in March to honour the nominees and winners of the 2013 Wood WORKS! BC Wood Design Awards. The ninth annual awards evening in Vancouver recognized leadership and innovation in wood use while being an opportunity to publicly salute and celebrate continued excellence in the building and design community, a WoodWORKS! BC news release said.

There were 98 nominations in 12 categories for the 2013 awards from all over the province, as well as some national and international submissions, including one by a BC architect for a project located in Tajikistan and another in the Yukon.

“We are truly amazed by both the structural and architectural uses of wood; we are seeing innovation beyond anything we could have imagined a decade ago,” said Wood WORKS! BC executive director Mary Tracey.  “Builders and designers have always embraced wood for its beauty and sustainability, and now with technological advances in wood products, they are recognizing it as a building material that offers them opportunities to create distinctive and expressive projects because of its remarkable versatility, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. The project teams are exploring wood’s potential and advancing the science and art of wood design and building which are the goals of our awards program.”

The panel of five judges included Henry Hawthorn, Architect (retired); Tom Guenther, chair – civil engineering department, Okanagan College; Douglas MacLeod, chair – RAIC Centre for Architecture, Athabasca University; Thomas Tannert, associate chair – wood building design and construction, UBC; and Dwight Yochim, executive director -Truck Loggers Association.

The Wood Champion Award was presented to Vancouver-based structural consulting engineering firm Equilibrium Consulting. Its principals, Eric Karsh and Robert Malczyk were chosen for their work on such projects as City of North Vancouver civic centre renovation and Prince George Airport. Founded in 1998, this firm has been successfully involved in more than 800 projects world-wide, including many award-winning designs.

The BC architect who nominated Equilibrium wrote: “As architects that are fascinated by structure, we ask a lot of them in pushing the limits of wood technology. They always deliver for us and have helped us create some very unique technical solutions. Their ability to resource solutions from Europe and adapt them to Canada has been exemplary for improving the wood design industry as a whole.”

Equilibrium co-founder and principal Eric Karsh also received the Engineer Award for his commercial, residential and institutional projects. His showcase project, North Vancouver’s civic centre renovation, “was deemed to demonstrate a highly-innovative use of wood and the jury appreciated his ability to push the envelope on the design,” the BC WOODWorks! news release said.

“For many years, this engineer has chosen not to take the easy route, and has encouraged and supported advances in wood design,” his award nomination said. As a leader in the field of timber engineering, Eric Karsh is the engineer of record for numerous award-winning projects, including the Earth Sciences Building at UBC and North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham Airport.

In addition to finding solutions for large scale commercial projects, Karsh has been actively promoting solid wood construction as a viable alternative to concrete, and as an answer to going taller with wood, the news release said  “He is also co-author of the widely publicized ‘Tall Wood’ report (co-authored with BC architect Michael Green, principal at Michael Green Architecture, formerly principal at mgb Architecture and Design), which introduces a structural concept to build timber high-rises of 30 storeys or more, even in high seismic zones such as Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Kimberley Smith and Bo Helliwell of Helliwell + Smith Blue Sky Architecture, West Vancouver, received the Architect Award.

“The principals of this firm acknowledge it has taken decades of practice to understand the economy and versatility of both conventional wood frame, and timber post and beam construction,” the WOOD Works! news release said. “The appreciation for wood is evident in their designs which encompass residential, multi-family and commercial projects.  They continue to experiment with exposed timber frame structures and new wood products, as well as traditional wood products – in-turn developing an architecture that is expressive, economical and lasting. The ingenious use of organic, flowing spaces in their designs suggest that wood is a malleable material, not confined to straight lines and right angles. Their award-winning work has been widely published and exhibited locally and internationally.”

Vancouver-based Peter Busby and Jim Huffman of Perkins + Will received the Wood Innovation award for the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre. “This remarkable Vancouver project creates a harmonious balance between architecture and landscape, and features extensive wood products, including a complex panelized roof structure,” the news release says. “With wood as the primary building material, the wood provided an added environmental benefit – it sequesters enough carbon for the project to achieve carbon neutrality. The jury applauded the structural expression of the roof, calling it highly-dramatic and very innovative. It is the first building in Canada to register for the Living Building Challenge, the most stringent measurement of sustainability in the built environment.

WOOD Works! says in its announcement that the Green Building Award winner demonstrates a significant contribution to improving the overall environmental performance of any building. “The 2013 award went to Vancouver-based Peter Busby of Perkins + Will for his project, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) at UBC in Vancouver,” the release says. “The jury noted that the elegant and extensive use of wood resulted in an impressive sustainable building. The project is designed to be the most sustainable building in North America. More than a building, CIRS is a research tool that demonstrates the possibilities in sustainable design and construction, serving as a catalyst for change.”

Other awards include:

  • Residential Wood Design: Kimberley Smith, Helliwell + Smith Blue Sky Architecture – Solar Crest, Sidney Island, BC;
  • Multi-Unit Residential Wood Design:  Oliver Lang, LWPAC Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture – Monad,Vancouver, BC;
  • Commercial Wood Design: McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd. – Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility,Vancouver, BC;
  • Interior Beauty Design: Andreas Kaminski, aka architecture + design inc. – Queen of Peace Monastery, Squamish Valley, BC
  • Institutional Wood Design – Small: Graham D. Fligg, Merrick Architecture – Borowski Sakumoto Fligg Ltd. – Klahoose First Nation New Relationship Centre, Cortes Island, BC;
  • Institutional Wood Design – Large: Jana Foit, Perkins + Will – Earth Sciences Building, Vancouver, BC; and
  • Western Red Cedar: Pam Chilton, Zimba Design – The Urban Longhouse, North Vancouver, BC.

Honourable mentions were presented to two noteworthy projects and their designer/project team: Kinsol Trestle Rehabilitation Project, Cowichan Valley, BC, (Gord Macdonald, Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Frame Ltd.), which is one of the largest wood structures in the world, and in the words of the jury, truly outstanding from an engineering perspective; and the Pallas Residence in Revelstoke, BC, (Keith Starling, Take To Heart), which was noted as “an exemplary example of a truly green building,” the WOOD Works! News release said.  “Constructed of solid-wood-wall panels and assembled with wood screws, the result is a highly-efficient building with little impact to the environment.”

“Wood WORKS! BC congratulates both nominees and winners for their achievements and we thank them for enthralling and inspiring us with their distinguished projects,” Tracey said.

Wood WORKS! is a national industry-led initiative of the Canadian Wood Council, with a goal to support innovation and provide leadership on the use of wood and wood products. Through workshops, seminars and case studies, Wood WORKS! BC provides education, training and technical expertise to building and design professionals involved with commercial, institutional and industrial construction projects throughout the province.



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