Kelowna Airport’s Waffle-Slab Timber Roof to Wow Travellers

Canada's tenth busiest airport will be transformed in one of the first projects supported under BC's Mass Timber Demonstration Program.

Mon 04 Sep 23


The upgrade of the Kelowna International Airport is set to break ground next month after Canada’s 10th-largest airport received funding through British Columbia’s Mass Timber Demonstration Program.

The Terminal Building Expansion Project (TBEP) is the largest infrastructure project in the airport’s history, with phase one adding 5,590 square metres of new space to the terminal building and 1,200 square metres of renovations.

The project is part of a CA $90 million upgrade to the airport, eventually leading to an 8,000-square-metre expansion to the terminal building.

It is being paid through fees paid by airport users and will have no taxation impact on Kelowna residents. 

A unique waffle-slab roof design

The project reinterprets the 1960s modernist waffle aesthetic with a two-storey prefabricated mass timber structure featuring a long-spanning signature “waffle-slab” roof design.

The roof features a waffle design that resurrects the airport’s original design. (Image Credit: Fast + Epp)

Designed by the office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers, the project features a 4,500 square-metre roof’s mass timber“waffle” system mirroring the original design.

The roof, designed by Structural Engineers Fast + Epp, consists of glulam girders, which will be cantilevered five metres in a north-south direction, spanning 20 metres over steel columns extended from the main floor.

Crucially, the glulam girders have been designed to allow for future expansion – with Fast + Epp reporting that the airport is forecasting a major increase in traffic density to 2045 and a need to make ongoing renovations and expansions to the southern side of the terminal.

Prefabricated CLT panels will span between these primary girders, hiding the lighting, sprinklers, conduit, HVAC and drainage systems within the roof.

According to Fast + Epp, the structure was designed with modularity in mind to accommodate future expansion – the structure can be repeated and expanded to the south as the needs of the airport grow.

The expansion includes a two-storey mass timber and steel hybrid structure over a below-grade concrete basement and crawl space. (Image Credit: Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers)

It is estimated that prefabricated panels will cut construction time by 25 per cent, creating significant savings for the project and resulting in 90 per cent less construction traffic to the site.

The mass timber roof will be built from prefabricated panels to reduce on-site construction time and keep the airport facility fully operational throughout the renovation. (Image Credit: Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers)

This is a key win, given that construction sites cannot encroach into areas where air traffic operates.

Once completed, the large-scale roof structure will serve as an example of highly efficient timber construction, showcasing the availability and affordability of mass timber.  

Primary steel columns and glue-laminated timber (glulam) girders will be erected, followed by prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) slabs. (Image Credit: Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers)
The expansion will lead to 3.2 million in passenger traffic by 2045

According to Sam Samaddar, the Kelowna International Airport director, the mass timber expansion “will increase airport movement and passenger traffic.”

“Throughout construction, the guest experience is a key priority,” he said.

“Our team is making every effort to minimise impacts and inconvenience to passengers caused by construction.”

Last year, the airport received CA $500,000 from the Province, with Katrine Conroy, the former British Columbia Minister of Forests, saying that mass timber is a vital part of the State’s vision for forestry.

“It’s great to see that mass timber will be a key feature in Kelowna International Airport’s expansion project and shows BC continues to lead the way on mass timber.”

The project is part of British Columbia’s Mass Timber Action Plan.

The Mass Timber Demonstration Program (MTDP) provides funding for incremental costs in designing and constructing buildings that showcase emerging or new mass timber and mass timber hybrid building systems and construction processes.

Wood Central understands the grant will help with the costs associated with using mass timber and creating a digital construction twin, advanced fire modelling and life-cycle assessment of building materials.

Mayor Tom Dyas has also welcomed the development and the decision to opt for a timer-rich terminal upgrade.

“This project will improve connectivity to our region for those travelling to the Okanagan and for our residents and is reflective of the growing importance of YLW to our region’s economic development and potential.” 

“The TBEP project will provide our community a more efficient and comfortable travel experience when travelling through YLW,” he said.

This is not the first airport project in the region to embrace mass timber

In May, Wood Central reported on constructing the KF Centre of Excellence, which included a 5,574 square metre mass timber building. 

Fulfilling the founder’s desire for extensive wood usage, Meiklejohn Architects Inc. conceived a 5,574-m2 (60,000-sf) mass timber edifice featuring broad wooden truss roof structures that elegantly arch and incline.

The architecture integrates sweeping and tilting wooden truss roof structures, creating an aesthetically pleasing echo of the aeronautic theme.

Moreover, the Centre boasts spacious mezzanine areas, employing various timber systems, including Glulam, dowel-laminated timber (DLT), and cross-laminated timber (CLT).

The building also boasts a notable element: a spiral staircase designed and constructed by the structural engineering firm StructureCraft. (Photo credit: KF Aerospace)

A distinctive feature of the building is its roof, shaped to resemble an airplane’s “tail,” making it a standout visual beacon for those travelling via Highway 97, the main artery to Okanagan Valley.


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    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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