The Sk’elep School of Excellence is located in the dry “desert like” interior region of British Columbia on a very visible and prominent site overlooking the North Thompson River and the City of Kamloops. Utilizing colours and large scale, bold geometric form language pervasive in desert architecture, the building has been designed to simultaneously stand out in this vast “Big Sky” landscape and blend into its natural surroundings. The various program elements have been arranged to take the most advantage of the building’s orientation, affording stunning views to the exterior from most spaces and allowing natural light to penetrate almost every room in the complex.
As part of the client mandate for a green building design, the school has been designed to maximize the use of natural daylight in all interior areas. Special attention was given to both the location of glazed areas and the type of energy efficient glass speicified. The inteior colour scheme was also selected for best light reflectancy of interior wall surfaces. The project is currently undergoing LEED reviews for green design evaluation and energy efficiency and is slated to receive a LEED Gold rating for existing buildings.
The main entry to the school complex has been carved out of the long west facing wall which acts as a shield against the noise of the Yellowhead Highway No. 5. The entry is designed to be very transparent and has an impressive view of the city of Kamloops beyond. The large overhang on the south-west corner is intended to shield the glazed lobby from the afternoon sun and low-e glass has been incorporated to assist in reducing heat gain in summer and reducing heat loss in winter. At the request of the client for the purposes of school security, the transparency of the main entry and administration area permits complete visual control from the reception and school office area by a limited staff. No one can enter the facility without passing the glazed reception counter. Just beyond this area, the remainder of the school can be locked off for evening or weekend events in the gymnasium.
The circle is an important form in the cultural history of the Kamloops Injdian Band and was to be incorporated in the school design. To blend cultural requirements and control construction costs, the building form language was kept fairly rectilinear, while all the outdoor meeting spaces, play areas and the main approach to the school made use of the circle. The classrooms and study areas have been oriented towards the north to take advantage of the cooler shaded areas for outdoor teaching. Each classroom is represented by a pod which is then offset from its neighbour to create a nice rhythm down the length of the exterior building façade as well as in the main corridor inside the school.
The classrooms feature an innovative timber structural system called a two-way lattice or grid. These consist of intersecting pairs of 114×114 Hem-Fir sawn timber elements, stitched each end with tight-fit pins and blocking to form blocked beam elements, each 356mm deep. 38×140 mm diagonal T & G decking triangulates the system, providing an effective diaphragm without the use of additional plywood sheathing. The grids effectively form the wood version of a concrete waffle slab, creating a rich and textured roof structure. The seven identical 5.6 x 6.5m grid panels were fabricated on the ground, raised with a crane and set in place.
The gymnasium roof trusses consist of an elegant hybrid between glue laminated beams and a king post truss. A pair of gluelam beams, symmetrical about the centreline, are sculptured to create a dynamic form and connected together into a king post truss with double steel rod bottom chords.
The deliberate materials selection suitable to the local environment and project type is attempting to demonstrate the best use of wood materials and structure in a northern, desert type environment where extreme direct sun exposure normally facilitates rapid deterioration of exposed wood materials.
Corrugated metal cladding, stucco, cedar and small areas of cultured stone have been used as exterior finishing materials. A darker shade of stucco colour has been used for the gymnasium in order to help reduce the scale of the building by making it blend in with the colours of the hillside beyond. Painted steel trellises have been incorporated on the south and west elevations to prevent direct sunlight from overheating the interior spaces. These sun shading devices also assist in adding another layer of texture to the building façades. Using ground-source heating and cooling with a heat recovery system and an additional layer of rigid insulation on the exterior walls, the building can be kept very comfortable in both summer and winter while reducing energy consumption by up to 49 percent. Coupled with the careful orientation of spaces and glazing, the result is an energy efficient sustainable design.
Photograph Courtesy and Copyright of Derek Lepper – dereklepper.com