VanDusen Botanical


Vancouver, British Columbia

Building Type


Square Footage


Product Supplied

Structural Fasteners

Progressive. Innovative. Inspired by nature. Three main characteristics that explain why the VanDusen Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre in Vancouver, Canada was awarded as “the Sustainable Building of the year 2014” (World Architecture News 2014), received “Winner Engineering Awards” (World Architecture News 2014) and the “Wood Innovation Award” (BC Wood Design). The city, architects, and engineers, aware of the educational value of the Botanical Garden, envisioned a design that would serve as an international icon of sustainable leadership. Inspired by biomorphic forms and patterns, the curved Glulam post and beam structure communicates ecological responsibility and advanced engineering.

To realize complex organic forms, while meeting the tight time constraints and requirements for cost-effective feasibility, the new visitor center needed innovative solutions. In response the engineering team designed 71 uniquely trapezoidal shaped roof panels, each prefabricated with all finished mechanical, electrical, and ceiling components within. The high level of prefabrication used when assembling the panels enabled fast and accurate installation, while shortening harsh winter exposure of the high-quality wood surfaces of the structural elements. Due to the complexity of the organic shapes, the use of 3D Modeling was required to allow the engineers to optimize the cross section of the load carrying structure (number and thickness of laminations); which enabled the team to reduce material cost and keep the final geometry of the naturally shaped roof.

Besides utilizing wood to meet high ecological standards, the Visitor Centre is off the grid and self-sustained by using geothermal boreholes, solar photovoltaics, solar hot water tubes, natural ventilation, and filtered rainwater for the building’s greywater requirements. Targeting LEED Platinum and living building status, the VanDusen Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre in Vancouver lives up to its responsibility as an inspiration for sustainable architecture and implemented valuable pioneering work.

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