The Richmond Olympic Oval was a signature structure for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and is a precedent-setting example of advanced wood engineering and design. The design of the wood roof and its application in a building of this size and significance marks the entry of British Columbia’s wood design and fabrication industry onto the world stage.
The design concept of flow, flight and fusion was inspired by the water of the nearby Fraser River, the wild birds that inhabit its estuary and the careful meshing of forms — curved and linear— where city and nature meet.
For the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the Oval housed a 400-metre speed skating track with temporary capacity for approximately 8,000 spectators. After the Games, the facility was converted to multi-purpose sports use. The main sports hall has become an indoor activity area divided into three sections: ice, court and track and field.
The key architectural focus of the building is the roof structure; the main arches are 14.3 metres apart and span 100 metres over the main hall. They consist of twinned glulam members held at an angle to one another by a steel truss. These arches conceal the building’s mechanical and electrical services in their triangular cores and support a total of 452 WoodWave panels.
The WoodWave system met all the physical criteria and provided superior acoustic performance to the more common perforated metal deck alternative. There was also the additional benefit of greater aesthetic appeal, by virtue of the warm appearance of the filigreed wood ceiling and a roof panel design that conceals the sprinkler system from view.
It’s also been a win for the environment. Because of its low embodied energy, low toxicity and the carbon sequestered within it, wood makes a significant contribution to the environmental performance of the building. The carbon storied in the building is 2,900 metric tonnes of CO2, and the avoided emissions are estimated to be a further 5,900 metric tonnes, hence a total potential carbon benefit of 8,800 metric tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to removing 1600 cars from the road for a year or the energy to power 800 homes.
Kristina Groves, 2008 world cup speed skating champion, said, “To me the roof is the most spectacular part, from the inside it’s like looking up at the stars.”