Project in Detail
Richmond Olympic Oval Roof
World Architecture Festival 2009 - Category Commendation
Richmond Olympic Oval - exterior elevation
Richmond Olympic Oval Roof
The Richmond Olympic Oval is located in Richmond, Canada, a Venue City that will host the long-track speed skating events during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The building measures roughly 100 x 215 metres in plan area, is situated on the bank of the Fraser River, and enjoys spectacular views to the North Shore Mountains. The Client’s mandate was to design an iconic structure that would showcase the Province’s wood products and technology on the world stage.
The project team successfully met these challenges in designing an Oval roof structure that has captured an unusually high degree of attention and acclaim from the media, speed skaters, and the general public alike for its innovation using wood, its striking aesthetic appearance, and its warm ambience.
There are numerous notable achievements in the structural design of the Oval, including some ‘world first’ accomplishments:
• At a clear span of close to 100 metres, the roof features the longest composite glue-laminated wood/ steel arches in the world.
• The 2.5 hectare roof structure is one of the largest timber roofs in the world comprising plywood and pine beetle kill wood.
• The structurally and architecturally distinctive prefabricated ‘Wood Wave Panels’ feature an assembly of simple, curved 2 x 4’s (38 x 89mm standard dimensional lumber) that is unprecedented, and also a world first.
• The degree of mechanical and electrical integration within the prefabricated arch and panel system is rare if not unprecedented.
The Oval roof was constructed using wood arches spanning between concrete buttresses in order to avoid the clutter and size of a conventional truss structure. Novel prefabricated Wood Wave panels span 14.2 metres between the primary arches.
The composite wood-steel arches are constructed as hollow triangular shapes in order to conceal mechanical and electrical services, provide structural stability, and create a striking aesthetic expression. They have the following unique characteristics:
• Two 175mm thick x 1700mm high glue-laminated wood slabs are held together by a steel plate ‘blade’ at the bottom apex and by steel angle iron bracing across the tops of the glulam slabs (see attached drawings). The silver coloured steel ‘blade’ not only connects the glulam slabs and adds strength, but also metaphorically references the speed skating function.
• Shallow steel beams that support the roof panels are screwed to the top of the glulam slabs in the centre span portion of the arch; however they lift off the arch to accommodate the spectacular view to the north, and to facilitate placement of the mechanical distribution duct at the south end of the building. This gives rise to the graceful roof curve that evokes images of a heron, the emblem bird of the City of Richmond.
Wood Wave Panels
The pine forests of British Columbia are currently being ravaged by a beetle infestation that requires quick harvesting of large tracts of beetle-killed timber stands in order to preserve the structural strength of the wood. The design team proposed to maximize the use of this standard dimensional lumber and develop a custom panel design, with sufficient structural capacity, that would meet strict acoustic, fire protection, and cost requirements, as well as result in a striking aesthetic expression. The solution involved creating 3.6 x 14.2 metre long panels with the following characteristics:
• A strategically assembled array of curved and spliced 4 metre long beetle-killed 2x4 (38 x 89mm) pine boards and stressed-skin plywood anchored with steel tension rods to create an optimal tied-arch structural form and acoustical efficiency. The hollow V-shaped forms also provide a cavity that accommodates placement of concealed sprinkler pipers and electrical conduits.
• Fire-rating equivalency proved to authorities through fire-modelling, and use of mineral wool concealed in the panels.
The warmth of wood and the striking array of geometrical patterns arising from the design immediately capture the attention of visitors entering the building.
The project presented some hitherto unprecedented construction challenges as follows:
• There was a need for a steel fabricator to assemble large pieces of wood and steel in a unionized steel worker shop environment that is partial to steel construction. Only one fabricator was willing to take on the challenge and did so within the budgeted price. Curving, bending, and warping of the glulam components on a steel jig was required to achieve the geometric form.
• Efficient means had to be devised to economically construct a complex Wood Wave Panel System. StructureCraft Builders, a company owned by the structural engineers, stepped forward and took on the risk of developing and manufacturing the panel concept. Fourteen full-scale load tests and extensive computer analysis was required to confirm the structural capacity. A digital fabrication process was developed to extract geometry generated from parametric modeling software and reliably cut the thousands of unique 2 x 4 pieces.
• Mechanical and electrical services had to be pre-installed in the arches and panels, and then spliced in the field following erection of individual components. This required a high degree of coordination between designers and contractors.
The Oval roof structure was constructed at a cost of roughly 60 Euros per square metre, which, particularly given its unusual design, compares favourably with more conventional long span roof structures. It makes use of a large volume of a rapidly renewable, carbon sequestering resource that is abundantly available in British Columbia’s beetle-killed forests. Its stunning aesthetic expression is preserved by concealment of all services within structural components. Additionally, the clear span structure allows the massive space to be reconfigured in dozens of forms, making the Richmond Oval one of the most versatile and socially sustainable speedskating ovals ever built.
The Oval is enjoying widespread approval and delight with the client, users, press, and general public, as attested in numerous articles and press releases. It will not only serve as an iconic landmark structure during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, but will also be enjoyed by future generations as a multi-use sport, community, and entertainment center.
Client / Developer
Mr Greg Scott
City of Richmond
Dominion Fairmile Construction
Prefabricated Roof Panel Construction
Mr Gerald Epp
StructureCraft Builders Inc.
Mr Paul Fast
Fast + Epp