Minoru Centre for Active Living

Award Magazine
By Laurie Jones, Award Magazine, June 2017

The City of Richmond is bursting with pride for its new Minoru Centre for Active Living, scheduled to open in early summer, 2018. The LEED Gold targeted facility will offer 110,000 square feet of fitness and leisure options featuring six pools, a gym, a senior’s centre with a commercial kitchen, a woodworking shop, a games room, billiards and a signature fireside lounge. Also included in the design is an 8,000-square-foot pavilion to accommodate outdoor sports teams and spectators.

Jim Young, senior manager, project development for the City of Richmond says one of their goals is to have the most iconic facility of its kind in the Metro Vancouver area. “The natatorium, or pool hall, is fantastic. This is a wellness space for families, older adults and the multicultural conditions of Richmond. The pools are lap based but also designed for aquatic exercising and recuperation from operations.”

He notes in addition to two 25-metre pools, the Centre has a large leisure pool with a 25-meter lap area and lazy river, a family oriented hot tub that seats 90, an adult hot tub - which is hotter than the family hot tub, and a cold plunge pool. A steam room and two saunas round out the spa-like sense of the complex.

At the deep pool, located at the north end of the natatorium, a glass curtain wall allows users to see through the sports fields outside, says Ali Kenyon, architect, HCMA Architecture + Design. “The pool is animated by a short slide to the water with a five-foot drop at the end and an acrylic climbing wall where users can admire the view then fall back into the water,” says Kenyon.

One truly unique feature of the facility is the terraced pool deck, an innovation that was born out of physical necessity and functionality. “We had specific geotechnical concerns because Richmond is near sea level which puts a significant amount of pressure on the underground pool tanks,” Kenyon explains.

“In order to achieve the depth of the pool to accommodate deep water activities, we had to lift the pool deck, which also created a fantastic accessibility feature for transferring into water. Having open glazing overlooking the natatorium area allows parents to work out while their children are in swimming lessons,” Kenyon says. “Gym users will also have great views of the outdoor running track and soccer fields.”

The Centre has a unique design in all aspects of the building, including the iconic geometry of the structural roof. “This roof curves in two directions simulating ocean waves, which posed a challenge for us with the addition of skylights to allow for natural light,” says Savvas Argyros, project manager for Stuart Olson. “Although the project has proven to have its trials many unique elements contribute to the design, look and feel of the building.” He adds the layout of the pools and their elevation allow comfortable access to the water for all ages as well as those with disabilities.

“A project of this magnitude requires attention to fine details to encapsulate the overall intent while maintaining budget and costs,” says Argyros. “The ongoing co-ordination between all trades created a successful end result.”

Structurally, the Centre has a complementing and complicated, use of materials including concrete, steel, glass and exposed wood. “The foundation was challenging because being near sea level, and dealing with large, localized loads, we had to spread the forces out,” says Derek Ratzlaff, principal, Fast + Epp.

He says large steel beams cross the full length of the roof, but the ceiling also has glulam beams that are 80-millimetres thick, spanning nine metres. “With the overall design of the roof being broken up, individually diaphragms had to be braced independently.”

The mechanical requirements for such a large, multipurpose facility are advanced. “We have heat recovery that we take and use to heat the building, heat the pools, and heat domestic hot water,” says Harold Stewart, principal, AME Consulting Group. “We also store a large volume of water that will be used in a unique situation. The city’s sanitary systems aren’t large enough to handle the building so we have a fairly large holding tank that we dump all of our pool water to. Then it can be reused for irrigation and other needs. The water is de-chlorinated and limited to the levels of most drinking water by the time it gets to that tank. Then we can release it slowly into the main systems.”

Lighting for the Centre was selected to highlight the architectural features such as the undulating ceiling in the natatorium or the straight lines that define the reception area. “Due to the building’s glazing, there is a high degree of natural lighting,” says Bernard Légaré, project manager, AES engineering Ltd. He and his team provide lighting controls to balance the illuminance throughout the large spaces by dimming the perimeter lighting. “In addition, providing indirect lighting in the natatorium allows the light to reflect off the ceiling and to more closely resemble the feel of natural light,” he says.

Taking inspiration from the nearby Fraser River Delta, Jason Wegman, principal at PWL Partnership, designed the landscape to have islands of landscape, reflecting the forms found in the river, with a natural plant ecology that people flow around like water in the river. “We created layers of planting instead of using traditional massing so through the seasons the landscape changes. The lawn at the main entrance will be under planted with bulbs so every year there will be a tapestry of daffodils announcing spring has arrived.” He says they are keeping the mature Oak trees along Granville Avenue to connect the civic landscape that leads to Richmond City Hall.

7191 Granville Avenue, Richmond, BC

City of Richmond

HCMA Architecture + Design

Stuart Olson

Fast + Epp

AME Consulting Group Ltd.

AES Engineering Ltd.

PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc.

110,000 square feet

$67.5 million