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New SFU stadium scores a touchdown with engineering award

Peter Caulfield
New SFU stadium scores a touchdown with engineering award
FAST + EPP — Fast + Epp recently won a 2022 award of excellence from the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies British Columbia (ACEC-BC) for its role in the construction of Simon Fraser University’s new football stadium. The stadium, which was completed in the fall of 2021, has 1,800 permanent seats, 1,200 of which are in the main covered stands.

Fast + Epp, an international structural engineering firm with headquarters in Vancouver, recently won a 2022 award of excellence from the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies British Columbia (ACEC-BC) for its role in the construction of Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) new football stadium.

In addition to being the home of SFU’s National Collegiate Athletic Association football team, the canopied stadium is also a venue for other university athletic teams and activities, special events and entertainment.

Construction of new facilities, including a stadium for athletic events, is one of the ways SFU is responding to the continued growth in its student enrolment.

The stadium, which was completed in the fall of 2021, has1,800 permanent seats, 1,200 of which are in the main covered stands. 

In addition, there are 1,000 temporary seats.

Fast + Epp were the structural consultants, engineers of record and part of the design team on the project.

Chris Mills, the firm’s senior project manager, says the stadium is visually striking.

The lightweight canopy cantilevers over 16 metres, providing unobstructed views for spectators in the grandstand.

“The continuous wood canopy is made of prefabricated CLT (cross-laminated timber) panels that are supported by steel girders,” said Mills. “As a result, the canopy looks like it’s floating. Compared to other sports stadiums, it’s a very unusual esthetic.”

Custom fabricated shaped steel box girders were used to facilitate the long cantilever canopy.

One of the challenges the project faced was the task of integrating the stadium into the neighbouring university facilities.

The constricted building site was a small grassy mound located between the modernist Lorne Davies Complex building and the SFU running track.

“We had to work carefully to make sure the new stadium fit in with the Lorne Davies building,” said Mills. “The integrity of the site had to be maintained so as not to disturb athletic activities on the running track, which had to be usable during construction of the stadium.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project faced numerous material supply challenges, as well as slower progress on construction because of the restricted number of workers allowed onsite at one time. 

The design of the stadium had to accommodate its high seismic and snow demands, because of its location on top of Burnaby Mountain.

To efficiently meet all of the stadium’s geometric, gravitational and seismic demands, the designers chose concrete as a durable framing material.

The mass of the concrete structure acts as a counterweight to the powerful overturning forces associated with the canopy cantilever. Combined with ground anchors, it stabilizes the cantilever system.

Construction was assisted by using prefab materials, such as pre-cast concrete seating and beams that were built off-site and then assembled onsite.

Prefabrication resulted in fewer errors onsite, shorter overall construction time and minimized impact onsite adjacent live sites.

The SFU stadium was one of 13 projects in seven categories that received ACEC-BC awards in 2022. The projects covered every aspect of the work that is undertaken by consulting engineering firms in B.C.

“The judges reviewed 46 projects in total, and selected awards of merit, awards of excellence, and the top award, the Lieutenant Governor’s Award,” said ACEC-BC president and CEO Caroline Andrewes. “As a result of the delay in presenting our 2020 awards, this year’s project portfolio included projects that were substantially completed in 2020 and 2021.”

The 2022 awards were made at a hybrid event.

“The awards were presented during a live broadcast at the end of April, and recipients, friends and special guests joined us for a reception in June,” said Andrewes.

This year’s awards marked a return to near-normal.

“In March 2020 we faced the same challenges as everyone else and, with support from members, we delayed presentation of our 2020 awards for one year,” she said. “In April 2021, we hosted our first live broadcast virtual celebration including live entertainment.”

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