Doig River Cultural Centre

Community building brings superb energy performance to northern climate

By Peter Hildebrand 

The Doig River Cultural Centre in Rose Prairie, BC is among Canada’s most northerly PHI-certified projects and the first certified First Nations community building completed. The main level comprises 250m² of community-oriented space with an upper mezzanine for additional seating and a lower level comprising a daycare and an Elders lounge. The design, which allows for multiple uses within a single building, was intended to promote inter-generational interaction and fulfill the community’s desire for a safe and healthy space for all its members.

In such a small and remote community, a close network of buildings is crucial to establish a central gathering place and create a critical mass for community functions. The project’s site locates the Centre close to the existing community administration building to create a somewhat civic centre. This proximity also minimized the need for major infrastructure expansion.

Nestled into the slope in a grove of birch and aspen trees, the building complements its natural surroundings and offers a gesture of welcome at the entrance to the community. The slope also facilitates grade access to both levels, which eliminates the need for an elevator or wheelchair lift.

The choice of building form and orientation were critical, with a large south-facing roof and extensive glazing required to maximize winter solar heat gain and optimize PV panel exposure. This orientation also creates a dynamic display of light and shadow across the splayed walls as the melting snow constantly shifts and changes shape as it makes its way down the surface of the glass. The compact two-level plus mezzanine organization of the program minimizes the building’s footprint, reduces the surface-to-volume ratio, and lessens the environmental impact of the building on the site.

The structure is a hybrid of site-built and prefabricated components, thus increasing quality and precision. The primary structural system consists of glue-laminated arches with prefabricated panels between them that arrived on site with pre-installed insulation. An additional 300mm of insulation was added around the entire perimeter of the building, which was secured using wood strapping and 350mm screws.

The screws were oriented at opposing angles in a truss-like configuration to ensure vertical rigidity and prevent the insulation from sagging. Fastening the thick layer of insulation to the face of the sheathing required careful detailing and a new approach to the cladding system design. The exterior cladding materials comprise standing seam metal roof and wall cladding, and a composite shake product made from recycled plastic and wood fibres that comes with a 50-year warranty.

The sleek, straight-lined Prolok profile of the metal cladding, supplied by Westform, provides long-term durability in unlimited colour options.

PROJECT CREDITS

  • Architect  Iredale Architecture
  • Owner/Developer  Doig River First Nation
  • General Contractor  Erik Olofsson Construction Inc.
  • Landscape Architect  Urban Systems
  • Civil Engineer Urban Systems
  • Electrical Engineer  EDG Corporation
  • Mechanical Engineer  Rocky Point Engineering Ltd.
  • Structural engineer  Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
  • Passive House Consultant  RDH Building Science
  • Passive House Certifier  Edsco
  • Geotechnical Engineer  Golder Associates

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