Commercial and Office Building in Fort St. John BC
ARchitecture team: Cedric Burgers, Ben coulston
construction: kalmar construction fsj
interiors: Marieke Burgers
mechanical: Rocky point
electrical: PWE/ stephane jacob
civil: Graham Mccoubray
Fort St. John, in the Northeast corner of BC on the Peace River, is beautiful and challenging place to build. The landscape is characterized by low, rolling grassy hills and stands of Birch trees, punctuated by deep gullies formed by the Peace river and its tributaries. It is a beautiful landscape between prairie to the east and the foothills of the mountains to the west, covered with farms and forests and very sparsely populated.
However, the built environment is another matter still- economic uncertainty (the region's primary employer is the oil and gas industry), extremes weather conditions and soft ground conspire to make most of the buildings feel temporary. Local planning requirements call for plenty of parking as few people walk the distances between buildings. Due to low land costs and high construction costs, all parking is at-grade. Lower fuel prices and the prevalence of large trucks for utility and safety conspire to against density, walkability or any sense of a built community.
Challenge and Solution: The client’s brief for this building was straightforward- design a commercial and office building that would optimize his investment in land, achieve rents commensurate with its neighbours, keep the build low enough that the rents would support the financing, and make it attractive. Given the relatively small size of the lot 2 or 3 storeys were needed to achieve enough density to make it worth the effort. But that in turn drove the parking requirements to the point where the entire site was needed for cars- nothing was left for the building. Alternate solutions to at-grade parking such as rooftop or underground parking were not viable economically, but a three-fold solution started to emerge when the official community plan was consulted and FSJ’s director of planning indicated that the aspiration for FSJ was to increase its urban density. There were provisions in the OCP for reductions in parking through community contributions ($8000/ stall), and by providing bicycle parking and shower/change facilities. Combined, this amounted to a net loss in parking of 6 stalls and by dedicating the upper floor to office space (which has a lower parking requirement), a building with parking at grade under the building became the ideal solution.