Mass Timber Wows: KF Centre of Excellence at Kelowna Airport

The Province of British Columbia in Canada has emergence as a leader in Mass Timber Construction

Wed 17 May 23


British Columbia (BC) is swiftly advancing in mass timber construction, with the innovative KF Centre for Excellence at Kelowna International Airport (YLW) serving as a prime example.

As reported in Construction Canada overnight, the Centre was born from the vision of Barry Lapointe, founder of KF Aerospace—a prominent Canadian aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul company. Lapointe aspired to create a structure that would “make it feel like a plane” and “use wood wherever possible.”

The exhibition, a dazzling blend of the world’s most unique aircraft and an interactive experience, promises to astonish all visitors, whether aviation aficionados or beginners, with its stunning architecture, breathtaking vistas, and meticulous details. (Photo credit: KF Aerospace)

The Centre’s design takes the form of an aircraft, with the central structure mimicking a fuselage and two adjoining hangars evoking the wings of a plane. Meiklejohn Architects Inc. designed a 5,574-m2 (60,000-sf) mass timber building to fulfil Lapointe’s vision of extensive wood usage. 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 KF Centre for Excellence at B.C.’s Kelowna International Airport (YLW) is designed after the wishes of the founder of KF Aerospace, a Canadian aircraft maintenance company. (Photos 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.

In addition to its architectural prowess, the Centre plays a crucial role in narrating BC’s rich aviation history. Visitors are immersed in an exhibition that showcases the transformative impact of flight on the province, highlighting the deep-rooted aviation legacy in the Okanagan Valley and combining a hands-on experience with a display of some of the world’s rarest aircraft guarantees to “wow” both aviation newcomers and enthusiasts.

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

The Centre’s architectural uniqueness is further accentuated by a spiral staircase, designed and constructed by the structural engineering firm StructureCraft.

The staircase utilises an innovative technique called timber concrete composite (TCC), which combines curved CLT panels with a layer of concrete, forming a continuous spiral.

This construction “provides the required mass to dampen vibrations in the impressive 21-m (70-ft) long span” and improves the staircase’s rigidity, eliminating the need for support columns and resulting in a visually captivating centerpiece.

British Columbia is catching the USA for Wooden Buildings

From a broader perspective, BC is emerging as a global leader in mass timber construction.

A report from late 2022 revealed that BC has 307 mass timber buildings that have either been constructed or are under construction, marginally trailing the 356 structures in the entire USA.

The Vancouver Sun reported an increase in mass-timber structures, including high-rises, across BC, fuelled by its vast forestry industry and backed by a government initiative launched three years ago.

Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation, humorously referred to this trend as a “triple-word score,” underscoring that the 2019 mass-timber action plan “supports BC jobs and innovation” and contributes to a more sustainable and cleaner environment.

 Politicians and environmental advocates increasingly recognise the potential of cross-laminated timber structures, which emit less carbon than traditional concrete-and-steel buildings, in combating climate change.

  • PEFC and SFI representatives are meeting in Vancouver for the PEFC General Assembly and PEFC Members Week. Wood Central has exclusive updates from the Australian delegates.


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