Special to The Morning Star
Enderby’s Peter Sperlich is passionate about building log and timber structures, but he rarely gets to see the finished product.
The bulk of his creations are shipped overseas in ready-to-assemble pieces for clients in Germany, Japan and other faraway destinations. So when the opportunity arose to rebuild the gas station owned by the Splatsin First Nation in his hometown, the owner of Canadian Pride Log and Timber Products jumped at the chance.
Destroyed in a November 2012 fire, the old service station couldn’t be salvaged. When Sperlich went to view the site early the following year, he proposed to rebuild the structure in a way that would showcase Splatsin culture. His specialty in log post-and-beam construction proved a good fit for the project.
“We really wanted to show the local community what we do,” said Sperlich. “This was a unique opportunity to showcase what our capabilities are, right in our hometown.
“It’s something that shows off the band and the beauty of the wood, and it captures the culture. Fifty years from now, this building will still be timeless and people will still appreciate it.”
Exposed natural log beams and large open spaces highlight the structure, which celebrated its grand opening in early July. Some of those timbers were locally sourced by band members who chose the pieces specifically for their crooked charm and imperfections.
The new building hosts the Quilakwa Stop ‘N’ Shop, Esso gas station and Tim Hortons.
There is also a grand conference room on the upper floor, as well as office and commercial space in the basement.
“We’ve got some pretty significant spans of open air. It’s not something you’d typically see in a Tim Hortons,” smiled Sperlich.
Many of the building’s interior posts are adorned with Splatsin-inspired carvings by Sorrento’s Bob Whitehead.
Local Splatsin artists also contributed to the cultural feel with glass door etchings and floor paintings.
Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian believes the building is quickly becoming a new focal point for the band.
“It’s an awesome building for many reasons,” said Christian. “A lot of it has to do with the logs and post-and-beam construction. This is something in our culture that we’ve always done.
“In terms of the culture, the carvings and paintings by our community members, it’s an important piece. It’s something to be proud of, and it’ll be here for many, many years.”
Christian noted the former building held significance to the community, as it served as a day care, training centre and arts and crafts studio before it became a gas station.
“It (fire) was a real tragic event,” he said. “That building was used for many things. It became a centre focus of the community, and once it burned down, this whole area changed.
“Out of those ashes rose this (new building). This becomes a new focal point for our community.”
Part of Sperlich’s vision for the project was to incorporate as many local wood species into the project as possible. He even salvaged some of the beams from the old building, repurposing them as rafters on some secondary structures.
“These logs are going to be preserved for generations now. Generations of not just Splatsin, but other Canadians and visitors are going to come and appreciate these pieces of log. They’re preserved as natural as they can be.”
Using such massive timbers — some of which are three feet in diameter — wasn’t without its challenges, said Sperlich.
The beams first had to be transported to Lumby to be dried in a special vacuum kiln. This helps prevent seasonal expansion and contraction.
These big timbers also required special expandable gaskets to attach them to the wall panels, another precaution against expansion.
Sperlich partnered with Omega Engineering, of Salmon Arm, to design the project. Using 3D modeling software, they were able to plan everything with a high level of accuracy, right down to the finest details.
“Wood actually has a high level of structural integrity,” said Sperlich.
“You just have to understand how to work with it.
“The challenge quite often is just finding the right engineers who want to work in structural wood. Quite often they want to go back to steel.”
The Splatsin’s new building features a number of energy-efficient innovations. By using structural insulated panels (SIPs), Sperlich was able to give it superior thermal values compared to other commercial buildings.
For heating, the building is connected to the city’s bio-energy network, a high-efficiency wood boiler system operated by Burkhard Fink, of Fink Machine.
Looking back on the project, Sperlich is still impressed by how quickly it came together. Crews broke ground in May 2013 and the gas station was operational the first week of July. The second phase was completed that winter.
“To design a commercial building and have it up in a few months is unheard of, really,” said Sperlich.
“We made it happen as a team effort. It was amazing to all of us that we made it happen in such a short time.”