Institutional Wood Design

Institutional Wood Design

Richmond Olympic Oval Richmond, BCRichmond Olympic Oval Richmond, BC



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This 2010 Olympic Games venue and legacy Community facility is located on one of the most visible sites in Richmond. It is prominently situated between the No. 2 Road Bridge and the Dinsmoor Bridge and can be seen from most flight paths at the Vancouver International Airport. The building is approximately 43,000 square meters in gross area where the second level is the primary activity space the width of which approached 100 meters and must be clear spanned so that no visual obstruction exists for the Olympic spectators and media. While the program-mandated spanning of the 100m clear width of the building was in many ways the most demanding parameter of the building design, the use of wood and composite wood products to achieve this structural feat was driven by cultural and sustainability criteria. Cannon Design and the City of Richmond made the decision early in the design process to use local and regional sustainably produced materials – in particular wood – to connect with the first nations’ building aesthetics, to showcase our province’s resources and ability to use them in challenging and creative ways on the world stage. The architectural design team wanted to achieve at once a warm and inviting aesthetic and also to do so in a cost-effective way. While the size of the building effectively prohibited the use of wood for all building components, the primary element of the structure – the roof – lent itself very well to the use of wood.

The design poetic of ‘flight, flow and fusion’ resulted in a roof shape that evoked the dynamism of flight through its resemblance to bird’s wings and wing tips. This image that resonated well with the first nation imagery was identified in Cannon Design’s collaboration with the Mussqueam Nation. Through the use of wood, the history of the site, the design poetic of flight and the warm, open and inviting character was ‘fused’ to result in the expressive final solution. The main span is achieved with composite glulam aches with a triangulated shape fabricated in four sections and bearing on concrete buttresses at the bearing point. The arches are spaced at 14.5m and there are 15 in total resulting in a building length of 217m. The Roof deck is a free-form surface that rests directly on a portion of the arch but also lifts off the arch at either end of the span. The deck is supported at its extremities on oval-shaped glulam struts bearing diagonally on the sides of the concrete buttresses.

While the composite wood glulams (constructed by Structurlam Products Ltd. and GTS) that span the 100m space were adopted early on as the solution that combined structural and M/E systems in a generally cost effective way, the wood-wave roof deck was a proprietary, locally designed and constructed (by Structurecraft Builders) custom-built system that despite using very conventional dimensional lumber, was nominally more expensive than the other contemplated alternative – steel acoustic deck on purlins. The distance of the arch span, the composite material design of its segments, the hybrid support system for the roof deck and the design of the wood-wave paneling are all ‘firsts’ that required dedication to the benefits of wood construction and confidence in the team’s ability to deliver a working design. The Richmond Olympic Oval proves that even very large span projects can be realized cost-effectively through innovation in the use of wood. It entrenches the material as the ambassador of west coast architecture to the world and establishes local material and design resources as of the highest possible standard.

Quotes regarding the Richmond Olympic Oval:

“I’ve had the fortune of being at four Olympic Games…there’s no venue like this one. This one takes the cake.” Jack Poole, chair of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee.

“To me the roof is the most spectacular part. From the inside it’s like looking up at the stars. I also think the part about using pine beetle damaged wood for the roof is neat.” Kristina Groves, 2008 World Cup champion over the 1,000 metre distance

Design Team:


Cannon Design
710 – 1500 West Georgia
Vancouver BC
Canada V6G 2Z6
Phone: 604-688-5710
Fax: 604-688-5702


Fast & Epp Structural Engineers
201 – 1672 West 1st Ave.
Vancouver BC V6J 1G1
Phone: 604-731-7412

Glulam Supplier:

Structurlam Products Ltd.
2176 Government Street
Penticton BC V2A 8B5
Phone: 250-492-8912

Wood-Wave Panel Contractor:

Structurecraft Builders
8279 River Way
Delta BC V4G 1G9
Phone: 604-940-8889

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