Choosing to go the environmental way occurred by default when the University of
British Columbia, UBC, selected architect Craig duffield of larry McFarland
Architects, a firm committed to sustainability, to design two new boathouses. UBC,
in Vancouver, Canada, has now become the talking point of the local rowing
community and beyond.
© 2007-Derek Lepper, All Rights Reserved
Originally the idea was to base the boathouse
design around traditional rowing elements.
But Duffield looked at the location, on the
Fraser River, a working industrial river with
barges, tugboats and waterfront industry, and
decided a new angle was needed. The area
was in transition, with the development of a
natural, more park-like recreational setting.
sunlight to reach the inter-tidal zone of the
river through the gaps.
UBC Head Men’s Coach Mike Pearce
commented that the design enhances daily
operations. “Instead of the building being a
place detached from the activity, it feels like
an integral piece of equipment that exists to
complement each outing.”
“The purpose of working the building into the
environment was both to enhance a visitor’s
experience of the natural qualities of the site and to
harmonise the building’s function and appearance
with the site’s properties,” says Duffield.
An important feature is the buildings’
interior cooling system. This, says Duffield,
is commonly the main energy drain on
buildings in moderate climates. As there is no
air conditioning, apart from natural ventilation,
shading is used to keep the interior at a
Duffield was also able to call on his own rowing
experiences from college days, which helped shape
his ideas on what really made a boathouse work.
A floating building was designed to enhance
the visitors’ on-water experience. Constructed
off-site, impact on the environment was
limited. The boatbay walls were made
translucent and, describes Duffield, unique,
in that they provide natural lighting instead
of the usual dark, gloomy boatshed. The
building’s floor plan is a zigzag line allowing
Environmental aspects aside, the boathouses
have also been lauded for their design, ascetics
and usability. Three-time Olympian and gold
medallist at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Dr.
Roger Jackson said at the opening ceremony
in March this year, “Of the hundreds of
boathouses I have visited in my life all over the
world, this boathouse is the best designed.”
Timber is a locally supplied renewable resource.
Low-emissivity glazing used to reduce heat loads.
Lower level heated by passive solar gain and vented for cooling.
Natural cross-ventilation used for cooling to eliminate the need for mechanical air conditioning.
Low-flow plumbing fixtures used to reduce water usage.
Orientation and screening responds to local sun path and prevailing storm winds.
Use of low-volatile organic compounds (VOC), for paint and epoxy, making for a
reduced chemical smell that is understood to contribute to allergies.
Use of durable materials that last longer. These include galvanised metal cladding
for the exterior, anodised aluminum for the windows, polycarbonate for the
translucent panels and the exterior wood is well-ventilated cedar.