The new Fort McMurray International Airport in Canada is turning heads in the architectural and building world.

It is located in Northern Alberta, a region characterised by spectacular geography including the Boreal Forest, the Prairies and the Northern Lights, as well as host to a burgeoning oil sands industry.

Fort McMurray is Canada’s fastest-growing airport – growing 25% in 2012 and 2013. It was this growth that inspired the airport authority to create a new green-field airport and terminal building in a massive C$258m project.

Fort McMurray’s remote location, its limited local labour force, and demanding seasonal constraints influenced the design process, coupled with an overall desire to use green building techniques.

The three-storey, 15,000m2 building was constructed with significant offsite fabrication and durable materials to boost quality and limit future maintenance.

Major public areas are defined by a mass timber structure comprised of crosslaminated timber (CLT) panels in combination with glulam beams.

The airport is presently the largest application of CLT in North America — using salvaged wood from British Columbia’s pine beetle infestation.

The CLT roof was fabricated at Structurlam’s Penticton factory in British Columbia, with roughly half the wood from beetle-killed pine.

The grade which can be seen in the airport does not have the distinctive blue stain associated with beetle-killed timber.

Replacing a steel or concrete structure, CLT offers a light and rigid structure with a beautiful warm interior finish, that enabled the team to decrease construction time and reduce the carbon footprint and cost of construction. The linear, low profile building echoes the Prairie landscape, while wood and sunlight define the interior – dominating each view. Acoustic panelling also offers visual warmth and texture.

The project was completed by architectural practice the Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers (OMB), with Steve McFarlane as the principal in charge and Rob Grant as project architect. Predecessor firm McFarlane Green Biggar Architecture + Design Inc had started it.

OMB said it was committed to sustainable building practices and has marshalled several projects through the LEED process for certification.

The project has won a Canadian Architecture Award for Excellence.