In Prince George, British Columbia, industries like forestry, mining, farming, and tourism thrive. Home to the College of New Caledonia (CNC), the city is located in a rugged, resource-rich region of northern Canada, where heavy machinery and vehicles—such as bulldozers, excavators, and semi-trailer trucks—are vital to the economy and daily life. Designed by the Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers (OMB), a recently completed, LEED Gold building on the CNC campus provides a hardy but elegant setting in which students of all ages and walks of life can learn how to service and maintain the sophisticated equipment that makes life possible in the far reaches of the continent.

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Restricted to a 6-month design period and 12-month construction timeframe—requirements that came with the project’s federal funding—the Vancouver-based OMB delivered a $13.5-million (that is, CAD$18-million), mass-timber building, clad in prefabricated panels of weathering steel. The new 25,000-square foot Heavy Mechanical Trades Training Facility houses workshops, engine testing labs, storage areas for tools and equipment, computer training spaces, and a student lounge, as well as an attached 22,000-square-foot works yard.

OMB’s design and material choices reflect both the programming and context of the building. In Prince George, temperatures regularly vary from 12°F to 76°F throughout the year. “It’s primarily a winter campus,” says founding principal Steve McFarlane, “But it is quite a beautiful winter.” To impart warmth to the interiors, the architects exposed the prefabricated mass timber roof system, which they developed in collaboration with the engineers. For the exterior, they selected the rusted skin to create a striking contrast with the bright white snow that blankets the campus for much of the academic year. This weathering steel also addresses the client’s needs for durability; “They have a very, very skinny maintenance budget,” says OMB principal Nick Foster. “That cladding will last for an extremely long time, without them having to paint or look after it.”

“The building captures the essence of how we see the equipment, which is very purpose-built, and derives elegance from its forthright, form-follows-function kind of attitude,” says McFarlane. As often as they could, the architects chose to forgo secondary finishes, highlighting the characteristics of the structure itself. Load-bearing masonry walls are honed, “so they're a little bit more sophisticated than your typical concrete masonry unit,” McFarlane explains, and by revealing the mass-timber elements, “We gave form and expression to logging and forestry, which are primary industries of the area,” he adds. “These materials have an inherent toughness to them, and their own sort of simple beauty.”

Located on a main street, the building also serves as a welcoming new gateway to the campus, elevating the college’s profile in Prince George. OMB is well acquainted with the school, having completed more than a dozen projects for CNC since 2004, and recommended the project’s site—a different, more visible one than the college originally had in mind. “We encouraged them to push the program to the edge of the campus,” says Foster, which saved money and simplified construction and other logistics. (The final location was more level than the client’s first choice, requiring less sitework—and also preventing the displacement of an existing parking lot.) “We applaud them for trusting us with that, because I don’t think they imagined this building could be an elegant piece of architecture at the end of the day with a civic presence.”

The project falls right in line with OMB’s ethos. “We love the challenge of tight budgets that force us to leverage our creativity in such a way that we can wring some poetic moments out of this fairly modest program,” says McFarlane. Despite—or, perhaps, because of—the additional constraints of a restricted timeline and the building’s workaday program, the Heavy Mechanical Trades Training Facility is poised to meet the needs of the college and its students for years to come.



office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers inc., 301 - 1825 Quebec Street Vancouver BC V5T 2Z3, 1-604-558-6344,


Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Steve McFarlane Architect AIBC AAA FRAIC LEED® AP, Nick Foster RIBA, Beth Denny Architect AIBC LEED® AP, Jean-Philippe Delage Architect AIBC LEED® AP, Jack Nairn M.Arch, Alex Vanderlee MArch BEDS, Magali Bailey Architect AIBC, Sam Clark ARB, Anthony Roach Intern Architect AIBC, Alex Noel Intern Architect AIBC M.Arch, Cameron Fraser BEDS M.Arch, Tara Espey BA(hons) Des., MSc Des., Isaac Fresia, Kai Hotson Architect AIBC, Anabella Alfonzo, B.Arch., Kelly Sawatzky Specifications Specialist


Architect of record:

office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers inc., 301 - 1825 Quebec Street Vancouver BC V5T 2Z3, 1-604-558-6344,


Interior designer:

office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers inc., 301 - 1825 Quebec Street Vancouver BC V5T 2Z3, 1-604-558-6344,



Electrical Engineer: NRS Engineering Ltd.

Mechanical Engineer: AME Group

Structural Engineer: Equilibrium Consulting Inc.

Civil Engineer: L&M Engineering Ltd.



Geotechnical Consultant: GeoNorth Engineering Ltd.

Landscape Consultant: Hapa Collaborative

Code Consultant: GHL Consultants Ltd

Interior Design Consultant: office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers inc.

Building Envelope Consultant: RDH

Surveyor: L&M Engineering Ltd

Cost Consultant: Jim Bush & Associates Ltd.

Audio Visual Consultant: Aspyr

FF + E: office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers inc.

Sustainability Consultant: Sebastien Garon Architecture + Design

Wayfinding Consultant: office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers inc.

Project Management: Colliers Project Leaders

Certified Professional: Jensen Hughes

AHJ: Jensen Hughes


General contractor:

Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd.



Andrew Latreille


Structural System

Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project: Brisco Manufacturing Ltd (LVL roof panels)


Exterior Cladding

Masonry: Ground face Concrete Masonry Units: Basalite Concrete Products, LLC

Metal panels: Pre-weathered Steel Panels: Dissimilar Metal Design

Metal/glass curtain wall: 2600 series: Alumicor

Moisture barrier: Elemax 2600: GE Silicones

Curtain wall: 2600 Series: Alumicor



Built-up roofing: Soprema



Wood frame: LVL: Brisco Manufacturing Ltd.

Metal frame: 2600 Series: Alumicor



Glass: Superneutral 68: Guardian Glass

Skylights: 2300 Series: Alumicor

Insulated-panel or plastic glazing: PC2550 Kristall: Rodeca Ltd.



Entrances: Insuldoor 100A Series: Alumicor

Metal doors: Hollow Metal Doors: Shanahans

Wood doors: Lynden Door: Shanahans

Fire-control doors, security grilles: ASH500: Amstel Manufacturing Inc.

Upswinging doors, other: Thermiser Max: Cornell



Locksets: Schlage

Closers: LCN

Exit devices: Von Duprin

Pulls: Ives

Security devices: HID Assa Abloy


Interior Finishes

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: KPS Millwork

Paints and stains: PPG Paints

Paneling: Blackened Steel: Caswell / Farr Fabricating Ltd.

Solid surfacing: Corian: Dupont

Special surfacing: Blackened Steel - Caswell | Farr Fabricating Ltd.

Floor and wall tile: Kursaal: Stone Tile Pacific, PWM414: Ames Tile

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Anti-graffiti Coating – Fabrishield: FABRIKEM



Interior ambient lighting:

Lightolier: Philips

Day Bright: Philips

Lumination: Macs II Agencies

Acciaio: Beghelli Luce

L4x-F: Lightheaded Lighting

Downlights: Zip One: Vode

Exterior: Bega, Lumenarea

Dimming system or other lighting controls: Delta Controls



Afwall Mellennium Flowise Toilet: American Standard

Flowise Flush Free Waterless Urinal: American Standard

Liano Undercounter Sink: Caroma

Helix Ecopower Faucet: Toto

Decorum Lavatory: American Standard

Four Compartment Sculiery Sink: Franke

Manual Faucets: Chicago Faucets

Barrier Free Fountain: Halsey Taylor

Wall Mount Eyewash Unit: Bradley

Undermount Sinks: Franke


Energy management or building automation system: Delta Controls