“It was a great honour,” said Jeff Laberge, an architect with J. L. Richards and Associates Limited and the lead architect with the Vale Living with Lakes Centre project.
“We were amongst a lot of really great architectural and engineering firms. The other nominations were excellent projects, so we really felt honoured in receiving the award.”
The Wood Works! celebration, an initiative of the Canadian Wood Council, recognizes people and organizations that, through design excellence, advocacy and innovation, are advancing the use of wood in all types of construction across the province.
“These are exciting times for wood design,” Marianne Berube, executive director of the Ontario Wood Works! project, said in a press release.
“Ongoing technical advancement in the forest product and construction industries, alongside creative thinking, is giving rise to an incredible new generation of wood buildings.”
The Vale Living with Lakes Centre was designed by Sudbury-based J.L. Richards, along with two Vancouver-based architectural firms — Perkins and Will and Fast and Epp.
When the building was in the design phase six years ago, the architects were instructed to use local wood in its design, whenever possible.
“We wanted to support the Northern Ontario wood industry as much as we could through the development of the project,” Laberge said.
“But wood is also one of the most sustainable structural building materials. It's the only material that is grown from sun and water and earth. For a building that had the kind of goals the lakes centre had, wood was an obvious choice.”
Much of the building's columns, beams and structural flooring is made of wood. Wood was also used in the building's interior whenever possible, including the cabinetry, doors and handrails.
When it came to designing the building's exterior, the architects chose eastern white cedar from Manitoulin Island. They were inspired by the island's 100-year-old barns, which have “weathered and stood the test of time,” Laberge said.
A press release from Wood Works! said “wood products are used extensively to meet and exceed all building code requirements and provide a warm, congenial working environment.”
John Gunn, director of the Vale Living with Lakes Centre, said he thinks it's cool that given the downturn in the wood industry, there's an awards program which recognizes the material's “sustainable beauty” and “usefulness in construction.”
“Especially with the architecture school here in town, having an award-winning design with wood building would be something for the students to stretch their heads around, that they should be thinking and designing with local products.”
Beyond the use of wood in its design, the Vale Living with Lakes Centre was designed to be environmentally friendly.
It's estimated to be 70 per cent more energy efficient than a conventional building of the same size and type, resulting in an annual operating budget of less than $42,000.
“We have a geothermal heating and cooling system,” Laberge said. “There's 40 wells drilled underneath the parking lot that heat and cool the building.”
The building also has exterior shading devices which keep the summertime sun out but allows the wintertime sun in.
“We spent a lot of time worrying about where the building was located on the site, so we can maximize the natural features and what we get for free on the site,” he said.
“So we looked at where the prevailing wind is and how the sun hits the building.”
Sudburians really seem to like the building's design, Laberge said.
“The number of tours through the building is evidence enough of how well it's been received,” he said.
“People are interested. They want to get in there and have a look and understand what's going on. They literally have had thousands of people through the building. That's great. For an architect, most people don't really care much about our buildings once they get up and running.”
For more information about Wood Works! and the other award winners, visit www.woodworksawards.com.