Building of the Month: Alexandra District Energy Utility Expansion

Photo: Michael Elkan Photography

Project Overview

Alexandra District Energy Utility (ADEU), operated by Lulu Island Energy Company, uses geothermal technology to provide clean, efficient energy for heating and cooling. ADEU extracts thermal energy (heat) from the ground to supply customers with heat for their homes or businesses. During the summer, the energy flow is reversed, and heat is pumped into the ground to cool homes.

The building is integral to the City of Richmond’s strategy for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use by 2050 and to reduce reliance on non-renewable sources of energy. The City is also committed to using local, low-carbon wood products in facilities operating on behalf of the municipality. So, when ADEU needed to expand its operations, it made sense to use wood in their new facility.

Wood Use

Glulam columns and beams frame the structure while CLT was used for wall and roof panels. Both arrived at the jobsite fully fabricated, allowing the structure to be built in only five days. The extra load required for the green roof was easily addressed by the wood structure without compromising the required clear spans or interior clear height of the building.

Photo: Michael Elkan Photography

Both glulam and CLT provided efficiency in terms of structural and seismic capabilities. CLT wall panels were easily cut into the triangular and trapezoidal profiles that gave shape to the varying height clearances required inside. The CLT roof extends beyond the walls of the building to create a prominent southern façade facing the park; the overhang also provides a large sheltered exterior space for community events. Inside, the CLT was left exposed, providing an aesthetically warm interior along with the flexible configuration needed to lay out the complex cabling and piping.

“It’s an entirely wood structure, which is great for this kind of building. On the inside, we kept the CLT exposed as much as we could. It creates an interesting contrast with the machines, the shiny metal finish and the white plastic pipes, in contrast to the warm CLT wood and glulam.

Esteban Matheus, Architect, DIALOG