May 1, 2013

Civic Transformation

Construction Business Magazine

Designed as part of the vision for a dynamic downtown centre, the new Surrey City Hall is a key component to the city’s master plan for the area. The second phase of the Civic Centre development project, currently under construction, includes a new city hall, underground parking and a public plaza. Located in Surrey City Centre, the new civic centre will become the new commercial, cultural and social hub for the city.

“We are creating Metro Vancouver’s second downtown core and it’s important to have a civic presence in City Centre,” says Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts. “We’re redefining Surrey and positioning ourselves for growth over the next decade.”

The 180,000 square foot city hall consists of two wings six storeys above ground and a three storey below grade parking facility. The building exterior features composite wood panels, exposed precast concrete and a glass curtain wall.

Kasian Architecture and Moriyama and Teshima Architects were commissioned to develop a master plan for the civic centre as well as to design the new city hall.

“The project is a catalyst to create a new downtown,” says Michael McDonald, Kasian’s principal-in-charge. “The mayor is very interested in transforming a tough neighbourhood into a thriving downtown.”

McDonald explains the original plan called for the new city hall to be located directly across from the Central City tower, but the design team proposed instead to have it relocated to the south side of 104th Avenue and east of University Boulevard to create a better “sense of place.”

There the facility will serve as the western anchor in what has been envisioned as a vibrant and pedestrian oriented downtown, centred around a lively new 18,000 square foot public plaza that will extend to the future 103 Avenue and that can accommodate up to 5,000 people.

“The plaza sits at the forecourt to the entry of the city hall and will form the pedestrian connection to the Central City tower that anchors the other end,” says McDonald. Transparency and flexibility were the key design drivers for the new city hall. Blurring the inside and outside and an open concept were part of the design criteria.

“The open workspaces can be changed quickly, efficiently and cost effectively by using a raised floor system,” explains McDonald. “The open concept really allows for flexibility to meet the city’s needs as it evolves or departments change.”

The building program includes meeting rooms, city service desks, offices and a council chamber. A 4,300 square foot daycare centre has also been incorporated with an outdoor play area located on the second level terrace.

“In terms of the architecture, we wanted the design to convey a sense of openness and welcoming,” says McDonald. “There is this great roof that wraps around the building and cantilevers out embracing the public plaza and blurring that transition from inside to out. It wraps around the west side of the building and transforms into a second level terrace before it transforms once again to a set of stairs that access the plaza level.”

A dramatic central six storey atrium connects the two wings with floors linked by a series of bridges. The large atrium space which the architects call the “city room” will support multiple uses.

“Within this great city room, staff and the community at large will be able to connect with all of the city’s functions,” says McDonald. “It also presents an opportunity to hold events in that space such as art exhibitions or city announcements.”

Another highlight is the unique council chamber located at grade level in the east wing, according to McDonald.

“The council chamber itself is not like any other council chamber,” he says. “Council chambers traditionally are used for council meetings and the business of the city but in this instance the room has also been designed to function as an intimate performance venue.”

Necessary components such as a catwalk for lighting and a system to remove and hide staff and council desk have been included. The back wall can also open right out into the city room atrium to provide additional space.

 

“The chamber already has 200 events for the upcoming year,” notes McDonald. Balancing the requirements of program, schedule and cost is always a challenge on a public building, cites McDonald. “It has to be durable

but at same time we have to be conscious it is a public building using tax dollars.”

Construction challenges included poor ground conditions which required a modified secant pile shoring system. Designed by Levelton Consultants, the method has been used to support stiff clays and saturated sands before but not to support soft soils.

Excavation began in August 2011 with the installation of 350 secant piles which B&B Contracting took four months to complete. Other challenges included the relocation of existing utilities and services off the site, requiring excavation to begin in the opposite side of the site.

An adjacent medical facility required careful coordination of construction activities to minimize disruptions. Installed underneath the parkade is a district energy system comprised of a vertical closed-loop geothermal system. The system consists of 406 boreholes, each at 250 feet deep and is the largest of its kind in Canada. It will provide energy to heat and cool city hall as well as new buildings in City Centre including the recently completed Central Library. The system will increase efficiency, reduce energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions which meet the city’s sustainability mandate. “This is a special kind of civic building and at the same time very much a sustainable building that is representative of the future of Surrey and the heart of the fastest growing city in Canada,” says McDonald.

The project is targeting LEED Gold certification, reflecting Surrey’s commitment to the environment. “Sustainability is incredibly important to the mayor and so this building is on track to achieve LEED Gold,” acknowledges McDonald.

 

“The materials were selected accordingly— locally sourced, recycled, low VOC, fly-ash concrete. There is also a green roof element. The idea is to minimize the carbon footprint of the new city hall.” Operable windows and sun shading on the exterior not only help with the heat load but also give the building “a texture that differentiates

it from any other office building”, notes McDonald. “There are vertical shims that mitigate heat load as the sun travels around the building.”

The large overhang of the roof also acts as a passive sun shading strategy.

“It cantilevers 20 feet out over the public plaza which provides some cover in terms of inclement weather and sun shading,” he says. When completed, the new city hall will be an important public landmark. “Here in North America, especially Canada, we very seldom have the opportunity to create a new downtown and think about what creates a great downtown,” comments McDonald. “The city hall is going to create a new place that doesn’t exist currently in Surrey. It will become a truly downtown gathering place that will bring people together on a daily basis in a highly energized civic place.”

The $50 million project is on track for a September 2013 completion. PCL Constructors Westcoast is the construction manager and Pivotal Projects is the project manager.