The first building in Canada to register for the Living Building Challenge
Inspired by organic forms and natural systems, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre in Vancouver seeks to create a harmonious balance between architecture and landscape, from a visual and an ecological perspective.
Completed in 2011, this dynamic 1,765-sq-m, single-storey structure includes an innovative roof form that appears to float above the building’s curved rammed earth and concrete walls. Metaphorically representing undulating petals, the building form flows seamlessly into a central oculus and the surrounding landscape. The Garden’s mission is one of conservation, and the new building was designed with the same philosophy in mind.
Through mapping and analysing the Garden’s ecology, the project team was able to integrate natural and human systems, restoring biodiversity and ecological balance to the site. Designed to exceed LEED Platinum, the Visitor Centre is the first building in Canada to register for the Living Building Challenge, which places enormous constraints on projects, such as requiring materials to be supplied locally / regionally and restricting Red List Materials like PVC.
The Visitor Centre uses on-site, renewable sources - geothermal boreholes, solar photovoltaics, solar hot water tubes - in conjunction with passive design strategies to achieve net-zero energy on an annual basis. Wood is the primary building material, sequestering enough carbon to achieve carbon neutrality. Rainwater is filtered and used for the building’s greywater requirements; 100% of blackwater is treated by an on-site bioreactor - the first of its kind in Vancouver - and released into a new feature percolation field and garden.
Natural ventilation is assisted by a solar chimney, composed of an operable glazed oculus and a perforated aluminum heatsink, which converts the sun’s rays to convection energy. Located in the centre of the atrium and exactly at the centre of all the building’s various radiating geometry, the solar chimney highlights the role of sustainablility by form and function.