Anatomy of a wood building; award-winning architectural design
RATIO wrote this on May 19, 2016

This 2100 sqm purpose built financial institution is located in Salmon Arm, BC and is designed as a flagship branch for enhanced  community  banking services throughout  the  greater  Shuswap region. The  project’s  predominant use of wood and wood building systems was primarily devised as a means of offsetting the carbon footprint of the project and allowed the project to utilize a very local   labour  pool  of  carpenters,  trades, and skill that contributed  directly to the local manufacturing, supply chains, and economy. The design  concept  sought  to  connect  the  building  and  its  function  to  the  greater  community through subtle references to the natural and man-made context of Salmon Arm and  introduce sensible  and  realistic  sustainable  design  goals  and  targets.  A large  sweeping  atrium  space  and angular  roof  are  direct  references  to  the  famous  pier  in  Salmon  Arm,  and  surrounding topography and provides a unifying design element across the north elevation. The main atrium roof structure is composed of PSL columns and Pine Beetle nail laminated timber roof.

Click on the image below for a close-up view of the Ratio designed  Salmon Arm Savings & Credit Union Building:

Anatomy of a Wood Building


The use of wood was instrumental in the project. The Main Atrium is a 220 sqm nail laminated timber roof made of pine beetle reclaimed wood, supported by a system of PSL Columns. The entire second floor and roof structural framing utilizes innovative wood structural systems of glulam columns and beams and TJI joists systems. All interior framing of walls, partitions, soffits, parapets were composed of 100 % wood framing. Challenges arose through the complex geometries of the main atrium roof and innovative structural requirements it presented. Collaboration with local authorities to ensure all seismic and fire code challenges were met as well as integration with other building systems.

A strong collaborative relationship with all project stake holders sharing a common vision to maximise the use of traditional and contemporary wood systems to fulfill project goals. The physical building design is based on three pillars – People, Place, and Planet. The use of wood ties together this ambition by engaging the local supply chain and skilled labor force, referencing the local landscape and manmade context as well as projecting sensible and realistic sustainable design goals.

Wood  as  a  primary  building  component  was  favored  in  this   project,  tapping  into a comprehensive local manufacturing supply chain  with advanced wood products, a skilled  labor force  and  a  pursuit  of  woods  natural  sustainable  advantage. Availability  of  quality  materials, leading  to  short  lead  times  on  deliverables,  cost  effectiveness, woods  inherent  structural  and natural beauty as a finished material further spoke to its desirability as a design solution. Wood as a sustainable resource and contribution in offsetting the carbon footprint of this project was a key design strategy focused  on  the  lifecycle  of  the  building  and part of a broader design strategy  to  maximise  energy  efficiency  achieved  through the integration  of  building  systems including passive earth tubes and a 220 sqm Green roof. As part an integrated  design solution focused on sustainable  principles  as  set  out  in  this  project  these ideals are transferable to projects of varying scale and typology.

Identifying the use of wood as a means to not only speak to the natural characteristics of British Columbia and introduce sensible and realistic sustainable design goals and targets, contemporary wood products enabled the design team to utilise the material to produce an expressive, structurally complex building form as a cost effective design solution. An inherent connection to the material and longstanding relationship to its use as a building material further enhance its suitability as a building material in British Colombia. It’s outright use as both a structural and finish material expressed vividly in the most public component of the building relate publicly how traditional materials can exist within contemporary architectural expression.

This project was honoured with a number of awards:

BC Wood Design Award 2014 – Architect Award

BC Wood Design 2014 – Commercial Wood Design Award

SICA Thompson Okanagan Building Award 2014 – Best Retail


RATIO Salmon Arm Savings & Credit Union project page


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