Text description provided by the architects. Located in Prince George, the College of New Caledonia ‘Heavy Mechanical Trades Training Facility’ offers young people across the region an elegant LEED Gold educational building that responds to the unique demands of Northern BC. A re-interpretation of the local industrial typology and the program’s heavy equipment guides its architectural expression. The ‘Heavy Mechanical Trades Training Facility’ is the newest addition to the College of New Caledonia’s main campus in Prince George, BC. The project supports the college’s mission to provide access to lifelong learning for the communities throughout the region and to facilitate the achievement of diverse personal educational goals.

The region is characterized by rugged natural landscapes and resources that propel thriving farming, forestry, mining, and tourism industries. Many of these industries are dependent on the reliable use of sophisticated large-scale vehicles and equipment. In response, the project addresses the need for high-quality heavy mechanical trades training and the development of expertise to service this critical equipment. Programmatically, the building includes state-of-the-art educational training workshops, engine testing labs, tools and heavy equipment training aid storage, and computer training spaces; all of which adopt advanced production and organizational philosophies to mimic current industry practice.

CNC Heavy Mechanical Trades Training Facility / Office Of Mcfarlane Biggar Architects + Designers Inc.

Student safety, low building maintenance, high-durability, and the acknowledgment that the college is principally a winter campus, were additional paramount aspects of the brief. The $18 million CAD building, delivered under the federal Strategic Innovation Fund program as well as provincial funding, was governed by strict schedule constraints that compressed design, documentation, and bidding to six months and limited construction to twelve. The architectural response balances practical requirements with clear planning and a bold expressive identity reflective of the unique qualities of the program. The design approach is rooted in the modesty and authenticity of vernacular industrial typologies, re-interpreting them to create an elegant, robust and highly functional educational facility.

The architectural team translated this approach into the following key design elements:The building’s enclosure is a simple folded expression enveloping the flexible long-span internal spaces. The weathering steel façade, an iconic feature, is inspired by the steel links of heavy-duty caterpillar tracks. The repetitive panels incorporate a subtle crease to improve their strength; reducing the required material thickness while introducing a dynamic shadow-play. The result is a familiar yet sophisticated exterior articulation.

The building is further defined by the bold interplay of solid and void, tempered by abundant daylight and views over a row of mature oak trees. Careful consideration was given to the low arc of the northern sun and the atmospheric clarity present throughout the year. Sunlight is a key ingredient in the building’s ephemeral appearance, enabling the cladding to behave like a sundial with shadows on the creased façade getting longer and shorter throughout the day and across the seasons. The structure is treated as architectural finish throughout the building to express the immediacy of an industrial building and in response to the accelerated construction schedule. Modular prefabricated laminated veneer lumber (LVL) roof panels were carefully designed to accommodate integrated services to further reduce on-site construction time.

The remaining superstructure is exposed steel and masonry, celebrated for its rawness. Masonry is given a ground face finish, relating to the other neighboring trades buildings through texture and materiality. Several sustainable innovations support LEED Gold certification. Strategies include passive solar orientation, super-insulated building envelope assemblies, in-floor radiant heating, displacement ventilation, and sophisticated heat recovery systems. Low-emitting robust materials such as locally sourced veneered plywood and blackened steel are used throughout to promote healthy interior environments for students and instructors.

This 25,000 sq.ft building and 22,000 sq.ft works yard conclude the College’s long-term masterplan for a cluster of trades-focused buildings, which share resources and encourage healthy interaction between several trades disciplines. The masterplan provides a central courtyard and clear pedestrian axis extending through three trades buildings and connecting to the main campus building. Intentionally located at the campus’ front door on Highway 97, the new Heavy Mechanical Trades Training Facility showcases the College of New Caledonia’s innovative approach as a premier trades training center in Northern BC, bolstering the pride of students, faculty, and the wider community.