Aurora Coast Cannabis Innovation Centre

Well being, energy and water conservation top the list at research station

By Heidi Nesbitt

Aurora Coast is a new cannabis research centre located in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. This unique facility provides a supportive and nurturing workplace for Aurora’s scientists to expand their genetics and breeding research, with the goal of realizing the full human benefit of the cannabis plant. 

Context 

The project aims to transform public perception of a previously illegal, underground industry, by housing it in a facility that fosters creativity and innovation. The first phase of the project consists of a mass timber building containing offices, labs, meeting rooms and support spaces for the adjacent greenhouse. A transparent network of collaborative workplace hubs was designed to encourage informal interaction and enhance the creative potential of the research team. 

As a project centred around plant health and vitality, every aspect of the building and site is designed to connect occupants to nature and to support health and well-being: an exposed, mass-timber structure was chosen for its low environmental footprint, and to provide a biophilic backdrop to what might otherwise have been a sterile laboratory environment; clerestorey windows bring natural daylight deep within the high-security, restricted-access areas; and views are provided to the restored pollinator habitat and orchard that surrounds the building. 

Cannabis facilities face unique challenges, including security, odour control and public stigma. To help gain the support of the local community, a large, environmentally degraded, industrial site at a prominent intersection was rejuvenated by providing extensive, on-site stormwater management, and by restoring the ecological integrity of several hectares of land. The larger environmental challenge was to provide cannabis plants with the steady warmth, light and water they need to thrive without creating additional strain on local resources. 

Heidi Nesbitt, Architect AIBC CP MRAIC LEED AP  ENV SP, is an associate with Local Practice architecture + Design in Vancouver.

PROJECT CREDITS

  • Owner/Developer  Aurora Cannabis
  • Architect  Local Practice Architecture + Design
  • Interiors  Albright Design
  • General Contractor  Heatherbrae Builders
  • Landscape Architect  Lanarc
  • Civil Engineer  McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd.
  • Electrical/Mechanical/Structural Engineers  Associated Engineering (B.C.) Ltd.
  • Envelope Consultant RDH
  • Passive House Consultant  Tandem Architecture Écologique
  • Greenhouse Consultant  ALPS

PROJECT PERFORMANCE

  • Energy intensity (building) = 162 KWhr/m²/year
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 8135 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building = 5 %
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