Built on a former landfill site, this hillside community center now boasts one of Canada’s largest green roofs—and it’s open to the public
By Frank Edgerton Martin
Designed by the landscape architects Sharp & Diamond, the new green roof at the Burnside Gorge Community Centre brings the coastal ecology of British Columbia into a city neighborhood. Sharp & Diamond worked closely with Garyali Architect Inc. to fit the building into a steep slope leading down to a ravine at Cecelia Creek Park. The project transforms a former industrial landfill site on Vancouver Island in British Columbia into a community center and park. The 1,033m2 roof helps to blend the new architecture seamlessly into the land.
Climbing vines on cables provide wildlife connections to the upper roof. The extensive living roof provides a partial restoration of a Garry Oak (Quercus garryana, also known as Oregon White Oak) ecosystem that is now threatened in much of the Northwest. Oak groupings planted in deeper soils just beyond the building edge frame drifts of more than 20 species of native and hardy sedums, grasses, wildflowers and shrubs on the roof itself. Paths and vistas across the valley bring in the beautiful topography of the area.
Although Vancouver Island is one of the warmest and most affluent regions in Canada, there are also pockets of poverty in the Burnside neighborhood served by the new center. The new facility offers housing support, recreation, child care, as well as elderly and family services for people of all ages. The new roof offers both passive and active environmental learning opportunities for these often underserved groups. The project also builds new recreational opportunities for community health and wellness. Connecting to Cecelia Ravine Park and the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, the site is part of a larger green trail system.
Street-level landscape flows over the architecture below, allowing for the 75–150mm-deep, extensive green roof. The weight of soil and moisture in green roof profiles can add to the structural needs (and costs) of new buildings. Sharp & Diamond formulated a lightweight growing medium for the proposed native plants. The team also developed a custom green façade detail with diagonal cables to shade the windows on the upper portion of the building. Rainwater collected from the roof and the permeable parking lot is channeled through stormwater infiltrators before recharging Cecelia Creek.
The Community Centre is the first public building in the City of Victoria designed to meet LEED Gold. In 2009, the roof project won an Award of Excellence from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, an advocacy group (see contact information below for other award winners). The Burnside Gorge Community Centre earned high marks from the judges for its water preservation policies and community focus, aesthetics and accessibility.