Building mimics DNA, petri dishes

The new building for the BC Cancer Agency is a good addition to Broadway, one of Vancouver’s most ridiculously unattractive streets. The building’s most obvious feature is its round windows which are meant to reference the glass petri dishes used in cancer research. And they’re functional – you can actually open the window in your workspace and the glass ventilation shutters direct air flow. The beautiful 15-storey spiral staircase is designed to resemble DNA’s double helix structure, and the cover of the building’s roof deck is shaped like an amoeba. This type of clever thematic allusion can be very tiresome (remember postmodernism) but here it’s subtle enough that it’s not gimmicky. More importantly, it’s an award-winning green building. As a recent Treehugger article on the building pointed out, it’s water efficient, including the use of waterless urinals, a quarter of the construction and finishing materials were from recycled sources and are low-VOC, and the  building is energy-efficient and clean in myriad other ways. It’s not surprising that it won a LEED Canada Gold rating. The overall building shape is a little ordinary, perhaps, but the windows really carry it, both close up and from a distance. But the main idea was to create a healthy and creative environment for the researchers who work there. And they seem to like it. Top photo by slightly-less-random; below by Ruth and Dave, jmv and sabel on flickr.

Wall of windows

BCCRA, Vancouver

The BC cancer research building

More information from canadianarchitect, and click below for more.

And from

BC Cancer Research Center: A LEED Gold Building In Vancouver

In June, the Vancouver City Council unanimously approved the adoption the the highest green standards for private sector development in North America. Effective immediately, all new re-zonings for development in Vancouver will be required to achieve or exceed the level of LEED Silver, and they will have to achieve LEED Gold on January 1st, 2010.

The City of Vancouver already had a green building requirement for its new City-owned buildings but the EcoDensity Charter is much broader in its scope because it applies to privately-owned developments, which make up virtually the entire building industry.

The new requirements are part of the hotly debated EcoDensity Charter that the city adopted. See more details about the debate in this Vancouver Courier article. The charter is part of the city’s larger goal is a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

Green buildings cost only 3% more to build at the time of construction, and that cost is usually recouped in the first year, because of the building’s lower heating/cooling costs.




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5 Responses to “Building mimics DNA, petri dishes”

  1. 10 eco-building innovations: plug-in floors, giant bunnies and flying hostels | Greenbang Says:

    […] BC Cancer Foundation’s new building. The foundation’s new building in Vancouver is not only so green it’s earned a LEED Canada Gold rating, but it’s unique in look as well, with round windows that resemble petri dishes and a 15-story spiral staircase inspired by DNA’s double-helix structure. […]

  2. BCTravelGuides Says:

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

  3. How rooms and architecture affect mood and creativity | Ouno Design Says:

    […] lull, interest in the effects of architectural design on human seems to be on the rise again. The BC Cancer research building was built with these ideas in […]

  4. KeyArch Says:

    You yourself photographed?

  5. LB Says:

    No, actually, I believe these were all Creative Commons or I got permission, which is what I usually do… but now that you mention it, I didn’t credit these photographers, which I also usually rigorously do on this blog, so I can’t remember why that is. I will have to fix that. You’re not one of these photographers, are you? Accreditation and permissions can be very complicated and I do make mistakes every now and then with so many requests going out and permissions coming in things can get lost in the wash.

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