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Natural Recreation

New YMCA connects with environment; builds vibrant, healthy communities

Shane Homes Ymca2 Top Honors Nov18
Photo courtesy of PCL Construction Management Inc.

Sitting in a natural park with views of the city and mountains, the Rocky Ridge Recreation Center is in the northwest corner of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The 284,000-square-foot multisport fitness and recreational facility is home to Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge, and includes competition and wave pools, a waterslide, competition and leisure skating ice, three full gymnasiums, fitness center, 160-meter running track, library, art making and display spaces, 250-seat theater, skateboard park and more. The building provides the region with wellness amenities, while serving as the regional hub for community gathering, cultural programs, recreational facilities and child care services.

Designed by GEC Architecture, Calgary, the low, horizontal building form is stitched into the landscape, expressing and complementing the natural contours of the site. Integrating the facility into the park-like setting provides the community with natural recreation opportunities, including multiple pathways that curve throughout the site that link to the regional pathway system and connect the community to the reconstructed wetland, the recreation facility and the hill.

The goal was to create an inclusive and connected interior environment, so GEC developed a functional program that maximizes the connections between program elements. Instead of separating each program element, the Shane Homes YMCA celebrates the integration of activities: from the public concourse users can see the pools, gymnasium, fitness center and the hockey arena. The project’s extensive glazing and unifying curved timber roof on the center links each space and creates an inclusive and vibrant atmosphere, engaging passersby and heightening curiosity.

Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge is the largest wooden roof structure in North America. Each roof beam is slightly more than 30-cm-thick, and the glulam timbers range in height from 1.5- to 1.8-m–the longest piece of timber is approximately 90 m.

According to Trevor O'brien, project manager at PCL Construction Management Inc., Calgary, the bottom of each beam is curved at the same radius, while the top is curved in three different dimensions according to its location in the building. This allows the roof structure to flow from beam to beam appropriately, and no two beams are the same height or length.

Photo courtesy of GEC Architecture

The project features approximately 46,000 square feet of KME TECU Brass shingles from KME America Inc., Oak Brook, Ill. Thermal Systems, Rocky View, Alberta, fabricated and installed the shingles, which provide a unique blend of natural materials and colors that capture the rolling prairie landscape of the Alberta Foothills, located just west of Calgary, before the start of the Rocky Mountains.

“Over time, the brass will develop a patina and go from bright gold to a more natural brown color, which is intended to complement the surrounding grasslands,” O’brien says. “The unique shape of the building, with its undulating roof, is intended to reflect the rolling hills of the facility’s surrounding landscape.”

The $140 million project is targeting LEED Gold certification. In addition to being the newest recreation facility in Calgary, Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge is the largest YMCA in North America. The project has been well received, winning a number of awards. Construction began in February 2015, and the center officially opened on Jan. 15, 2018.

To visualize and coordinate the final details of the complex design, the team used BIM 360 modeling. “It created a real-time environment for trade contractors to collaborate in parallel, and allowed the team to prefabricate major elements accurately and with the confidence that installation would be seamless on-site,” explains O’brien. “The final results of using a fully coordinated 3-D BIM model were realized in improved performance in safety, quality, cost and schedule.”