March 2021

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M A R C H 2 0 2 1 | 77 Health Sciences Centre – Okanagan College HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE – OKANAGAN COLLEGE by ROBIN BRUNET T o date, Okanagan College (OC) has graduated more than 11,000 health care professionals since its original health building opened in 1963. With the College's new Health Sciences Centre opening its doors this year, students now have access to a world-class learning environment to train for health-science careers. The 2,800 square-metre facility is a replacement space for labs and classrooms in which practical nurses, dental assistants, health-care assis- tants, and other health and social development students train. It is also equipped with leading-edge tech- nology to mimic modern health-care workplace settings. The B.C. govern- ment contributed $15.4 million of the $18.9 million total project cost; gener- ous support from donors throughout the College region is helping OC fund the remainder. Thanks to a close collabora- tion between the College and GEC Architecture, the Health Sciences Centre also pushes the envelope of sustainable practice by targeting LEED Gold, the Zero Carbon Building Standard, and Silver Certification of the WELL Educational Pilot Program. Plus, input from representatives from the College's Indigenization Committee as well as members of the Westbank First Nation ensured the design included extensive Indigenous integration. Jim Hamilton, Okanagan College president, explains, "From the shape of the building itself to the environ- ment around it, which includes an Indigenous garden, there are many examples of Indigenous knowledge and culture that informed the design and build." Peter Osborne, partner at GEC Architecture, says, "The College right- fully had a deep commitment to engaging the Indigenous community as well as high standards for sus- tainability, and this drove the design process when we started work on the project in 2017. This is how we prefer to develop buildings, rather than going in with preconceived proposals, because all stakeholders have a meaningful role in bringing a new building to life." From this collaborative approach emerged distinct design features. The concept of weaving is important to the Syilx people of the Okanagan Nation and was integrated into exterior and interior elements. "Inside, we achieved the crisscrossing pattern with glulam structure, and for the exterior a two- tone white fibre cement panel cladding – achieved by two different levels of sandblasting – imparted an abstract fabric appearance," says Osborne. GEC included a light well in the design that intelligently filters natu- ral light down to the floors and spaces below. The building incorporates fac- ulty offices, program delivery spaces, teaching laboratories, and student gathering areas across all three floors of the building – not segregated but purposefully integrated – with stan- dardized space sizes. This allows for the future re-purposing of spaces as pro- grams or research priorities change. To keep the window-to-wall ratio down, classrooms were glazed facing the interior (which also contributed to a light, airy, interior ambiance) and punched windows were added to the exterior in a seemingly random pattern. "The main atrium contains concrete floors and hemlock and green accents to help bring outside elements inside," says Osborne. Spaces for art were designated inside the building including glazed guardrail panels and a three-storey high feature wall in the student gathering area. P H OTO G R A P H Y CO U RT E SY G EC A RC H I T EC T U R E

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