Completion: 2013
Owner: University of British Columbia

UBC-O Fitness & Wellness Centre

Kelowna, BC

This addition to the existing gymnasium complex at UBC’s Okanagan Campus is an athletic training facility that pushes the structural boundaries and aesthetic potential of mass timber construction. The project is the result of a design-build competition aimed at demonstrating innovative wood construction technology, while efficiently providing new training facilities for student athletes, including new space for cardio training, strength training, yoga, dance, spin classes, martial arts and a future indoor climbing wall.

The addition pivots away from the opaque mass of the existing masonry gym to address an adjacent green space, while preserving important site lines from the gym lobby to the main pedestrian spine of the campus. Tethered by a narrow link, and freed by an alternative code solution to employ wood construction and greater transparency, the design solution juxtaposes the staid original building with a curvaceous new form.

In the exploration of a lithe structure of significant span, CLT panels (typical employed as walls and decking) are re-conceived as deep, slender beams, slotted together to form a cellular grid that supports the outer skin, and joined with CLT columns to form a unified frame. This cellular strategy is the basis of some of the most efficient structures created by nature: light materials made stronger by their honeycomb geometry. To harness the simplicity and speed of CLT construction, a kit of parts was devised, much like a balsa wood aircraft model. Complex shapes were efficiently cut from large rectangular sheets of cross-laminated SPF lumber with minimal waste. The parts were then slotted together on site with stainless steel pin and socket connections.

A mass timber language was developed throughout the design, with the inherent qualities of CLT becoming integral to multiple building systems and user functions. For example, the deep coffers of the CLT roof structure provide large planes for directing light, acoustic baffling, and concealment of sprinklers. Efficiencies are achieved through a simple functional layout and the use of the existing gym’s infrastructure for vertical circulation and ancillary space. This results in an exceptionally high net area of usable space for the new facility.

The low ecological footprint of mass timber, and its carbon sequestering properties, meshed with the sustainable goals of the client. Coupled with green elements such as a campus geo-exchange heating system, natural light and ventilation, passive sun shading, and recycled and low-emitting materials, the mass timber solution provides a healthy environment for fitness and wellness.

Related work: Featured Higher Education recreational Wood Innovation