Malahat Skywalk Wins in the 2021-22 Wood Design & Building Awards

We are extremely proud to announce that the Malahat Skywalk has won the Canadian Wood Council
Structural Innovation Award in the 2021-22 Wood Design Awards!

The Malahat Skywalk is an exciting new tourism project on Southern Vancouver Island. The project consists of three main structures: a single-storey Visitor Center, a 500m (1,650 ft.) long elevated Boardwalk, and the 30m (100 ft) high mass timber Viewing Tower, where visitors enjoy stunning views of Finlayson Arm and the distant Coast Mountains. Objectives are to protect and enhance the ecological values of the area, collaborate with First Nations, balance public use with ecological values, and connect visitors of all accessibility levels to the area’s natural values and cultural heritage.

The single-storey Visitor Centre contains a café and gift shop, and features mass timber and light wood frame. From there, the elevated Boardwalk leads visitors through the forest canopy, zig-zagging through the arbutus forest reaching heights of 15m (50 ft.) tall.

The intent of the Tower structure is to bring visitors of all abilities into nature, so the use of wood was imperative to the look and feel of the attraction. The design looked to successful precedent structures locally and internationally, and was driven by the accessibility requirements. A gentle spiral ramp takes visitors up to the 30m (100 ft.) high viewing platform and is cantilevered off a ring of glulam columns. A galvanized steel central spiral staircase provides emergency egress and support for a slide and adventure net.

The Tower and Boardwalk both employ hybrid timber and steel construction. The Tower consists of Douglas Fir Glulam columns and beams with steel connections and lateral bracing. The Douglas Fir Glulam was chosen for its structural performance and durability in exterior exposure. The Boardwalk consists of Glulam beams spanning between structural steel tripods and struts which carry the gravity and lateral loads down to the foundations, which are anchored into bedrock. Between the primary Glulam beams there is steel diaphragm bracing for stability.

The majority of the wood is exposed to the elements except the primary Glulam columns of the tower. The decision was made to clad these columns in a thin 3/4″ CLT panel as they are the only element that is not replaceable. The rest of the wood elements are thoughtfully detailed to be weather resistant to support the longevity of the structure. These elements can also be replaced or refinished as needed.

The ability of wood elements to be maintained and/or refinished throughout the structure’s lifecycle is one benefit. Another is that it is lightweight, which allowed the components to be prefabricated into large sections and lifted with mobile cranes through the forest. This minimized the clearing required to construct the Boardwalk. 

The size and remote location of the site made placing concrete a challenge. However, the lightweight wood structure allowed for small concrete foundation sizes which had the added benefit of minimizing the impact on the forest, while also reducing the embodied carbon of the structures.

Since opening in Summer, 2021, the Malahat Skywalk has become one of the most popular attractions on Vancouver Island. We are proud to have been part of this stellar team, bringing this exciting project to life:

  • Malahat Skywalk
  •  Murdoch & Company Ltd.
  •  Kinsol Timber Systems
  •  Styxworks
  •  Evolution Building Science
  •  GroundFX
  •  Western Archrib
  •  Wide Open Welding
  •  Ryzuk Geotechnical
  •  Tom Barratt Ltd. Landscape Architects

Images: Hamish Hamilton