Miller Hull

Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant

Iona Island, British Columbia, Canada
Informed by climate change, this complex project endeavors to treat life’s vital resource in a wastewater facility that blends into its surroundings, connects to its people, and enhances its community.
Client Metro Vancouver
Certifications Pursuing Envision Gold, LEED Gold, and Salmon Safe Certification
Size 22,000 Square Meters


Wastewater Treatment Plants are crucial in protecting one of our planet’s most precious natural resources — water. They are complex, large-scale machines that clean and remove toxins before releasing treated effluent back into receiving waters.

Though for all the good treatment plants do, they are often harsh on the environment, sometimes drastically altering the ecosystem in which they reside. The Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant was no exception; its massive concrete structures greatly impacted the fragile ecosystem on and surrounding Iona Island preventing the prominent salmon habitat from accessing fresh water, thus altering its food cycle – from plankton to orca.

The indigenous Musqueam Indian Band was also markedly affected, its home and food source disrupted, its land punctured, its views of the mountains obscured.

With the existing Iona plant nearing the end of its service life, there was opportunity to re-envision the constitutions of a treatment plant, and to conceive of a modern system that heals past ills, rectifies the significant errors induced by human intervention, addresses climate change, considers regional ecologies, and regards cultural connections with the utmost respect.

But perhaps what is most unique about this project is its aim to fully connect the plant to the community it serves. For decades, large scale infrastructure projects like this have been largely removed from the public eye, perpetuating the collective mistrust of these facilities, and widening the disconnect between them and society. Located on an ecologically rich public island park and on the unceded traditional land of the Musqueam Indian Band, this project endeavors to fully integrate with its neighbors, embarking on an aggressive ecological restoration, working to reconcile with First Nations, improving park amenities, and creating a publicly-accessible Welcome Building containing a robust interpretive program that highlights the myriad benefits of the project and the health of the ecosystem.

Additionally, the project team is working collaboratively with various project stakeholders in a deliberate and engaging manner to create an inclusive process seeking to build a community asset benefiting the ratepayers and municipalities of Iona Island and the Metro Vancouver region.

The project will exceed the federal mandate requiring secondary treatment by providing advanced tertiary treatment which greatly benefits the health of the receiving waters and the aquatic life within. The architecture of the plant —along with the 20 ecological projects that are an integrated part of the overall project — are deferential to the beautiful natural setting and provides a buffer from the hard infrastructure of the interior of the plant to the public park beyond.

Striving to demonstrate the opportunity and efficiency of the recovered wastewater resources, the new Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant and the surrounding ecological projects will illustrate the potential that treatment plants have to elevate the local, regional, and world-scale of ecological health and community integration.

Project Team

Architect: The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP and Local Practice
Landscape Architect: Space2Place
Civil, Structural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering: AECOM