Fast + Epp was the structural engineering firm for an iconic 19,000 sq. ft. visitors’ centre at VanDusen Botanical Gardens. The striking entrance point serves as an interactive education centre and welcome portal to revitalize public interest in the gardens. It includes lecture rooms, exhibition space, a café, and guest services.
Perhaps its most innovative feature is the dramatic free-form, organically-shaped roof structure, which metaphorically represents petals of an orchid, flowing seamlessly into the surrounding landscape like an extension of the garden itself.
The design team pioneered a wood solution for the new visitor centre in the interests of economy, sustainability, innovation, and to meet tight time constraints. While similarly complex building forms— like Spain’s Guggenheim Bilbao Museum or the Music Experience Building in Seattle, Washington — have been achieved through the use of steel or concrete, this is believed to be the first example of wood use for such a complex form.
Seventy-one unique panels consisting of glue-laminated wood and standard dimensional lumber components were designed by Fast + Epp and subsequently prefabricated and created by StructureCraft Builders Inc. (a company owned by the principals of Fast + Epp). The prefabricated panels were designed to have mechanical, electrical, acoustical and ceiling finish components pre-installed, to fast track construction, avoid mid-winter rain exposure and ensure a high-quality installation.
Billed as “Vancouver’s greenest building” by local media, the structure is targeting Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum status. Its sustainable features include a Green Roof almost-exclusively constructed with timber, rammed earth walls and natural ventilation.
The project was named World Engineering News' Top Engineering project of 2012.