Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, wanted to build a field station for their Centre for Shellfish Research. Choosing the right location for the 13,000-square-foot building was easy—the university selected the stunningly beautiful Deep Bay waterfront in the southern end of Baynes Sound on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The location wasn’t chosen for its beauty, however. It was chosen because it’s where over half of all of the farmed shellfish in British Columbia are grown. “This area is very important ecologically, environmentally, and socially,” says Brian Kingsett, field station manager for the Centre for Shellfish Research.
A Showcase for VIU
The purpose of the field station is to teach, train, and study aquaculture and promote sustainability. The center is open to the public and visitors see the on-land seawater research labs and shellfish hatchery, learn about the various university programs, and even sample seafood prepared by VIU’s culinary arts students. So, instead of a utilitarian building, the university wanted something practical that also would act as a showcase for the shellfish research program, and for the university as a whole. The goal was to create a stylish facility that would cause minimal impact to the natural site and that local residents would enjoy and be proud of. From the beginning, the project team sought a LEED Platinum rating from the Washington, D.C.–based U.S. Green Building Council.
The result is a striking, modern two-story building that meshes perfectly with the landscape and took top honors in the Roofs category of the 2011 Metalmag Architectural Awards.The first thing that stands out is the curved roof that takes the form of shellfish. “Metal was chosen to complement the shell of the building and provide clean, uninterrupted lines,” says Chris Smith, project manager for the field station and manager of the sheet metal division of Nelson Roofing and Sheet Metal in Cumberland, British Columbia. The champagne color was chosen to mimic the color of mollusks.
No Small Task
It was a huge job for Nelson Roofing. The roof has three different radiuses, and the longest panels are approximately 70 feet. Because of their length and the remote location site, the forming and curving of the narrow panels needed to be done on site.
Jason Wright, associate with Hickok Cole Architects in Washington and one of the judges of this year’s awards, explains, “These site-formed standing seam roof panels reinforce a simple concept and evoke the ribs of a shell or the appearance of a crashing wave. The challenges of forming such material precisely in this environment should be commended.”
Another judge, Tim Wurtele, architect with HDR in Omaha, Neb., goes on to say that the center “is a bold abstraction of form that subtly lies in the hillside landscape with a view onto the bay. The detailing is very well done given the fact that the curved metal panels were formed on site. There are various locations where the curvilinear form is carved out for functional purposes. Expressing the structure under the curved metal skin gives the impression that the metal shell could actually open.”
The uniqueness and difficulty of the task wasn’t lost on the project’s architects, Vancouver-based McFarland Marceau Architects. In fact, they weren’t sure that such precision bending and installation of the architectural sheet metal could be done. But in the earliest stages of the project, Nelson Roofing insisted they were up to the task. Due to the magnitude of the job, the Langley-based Roofing Contractors Association of British Columbia even sent a film crew to document the installation process. The video will become part of RCABC’s instructional courses on architectural sheet metal.
There is more to the roof than simply bending the metal. Several layers were required for this advanced roofing system. First, a thin blueskin layer was applied to provide moisture protection. Next, a felt layer was put down, and then the standing seam sheet was installed. After the long sheets were bent on the ground to fit the various radiuses, they were lifted with extreme care to avoid creasing the metal, and then installed. Clips can be attached to the ridges so that photovoltaic panels can later be added.
The hard work paid off. The Centre for Shellfish Research Field Station is getting noticed and is something Vancouver Island University and the local community can be proud of for years to come.
Adam Miller writes about metal and architecture from Chicago.