Biophilic Design at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver

During the WoodSolutions 2017 tour to North America we visited the offices of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), one of Canada’s most progressive retailers, having embraced a philosophy of corporate, social and environmental responsibility since its creation by a group of students the University of British Columbia in 1971.

Planning for the new head office began in 2008 when it became clear that the company was outgrowing its existing premises. In January 2012, the City of Vancouver approved a rezoning proposal for the construction of a new 10,400 square metre LEED®-certified head office facility in the False Creek Flats area southeast of the city centre. The office was opened in 2014.

The project continues MEC’s commitment to a broad approach to sustainability, incorporating a number of environmentally responsible, resource conserving and biophilic design elements. These include:

  • Natural light: Expansive windows flood the interior with daylight. The narrow floor plan ensures that the majority of the occupied areas receive abundant daylight.
  • Natural materials: Laminated timber beams and columns, joined and braced with steel fittings, make up the building structure. Floor assemblies are made of modular prefabricated nail-laminated timber (NLT) panels.
  • Fresh air: Perimeter windows that open and a system for drawing in and distributing outside air provide fresh air throughout the building.
  • Extensive landscaping: Drought and water-tolerant native plants, situated in and around a series of rain gardens, evoke the site’s ecological history. Logs, boulders and boardwalks give the grounds character.
  • Amenities for employees: Amenities include a storage room for 149 bikes, shower and change facilities, multipurpose room (with a dedicated fitness equipment zone) that will also be available for public events, an indoor climbing ‘cave’, as well as areas to socialise and relax.

The new facility is now home to all MEC’s head office functions, from product design and information technology departments, to human resources and finance, as well as the company’s service centre staff, a total of over 400 employees.

Hugh Cochlin, Principal at Proscenium Architecture + Interiors Inc., said, “We realised that wood could give the space the atmosphere the client wanted; at the same time being the most environmentally responsible choice.”

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