On Structure, On Stairs, On Point: Silva Cells Shine at Brentwood Mall

Multi-use transit development in British Columbia plants more than 150 trees, creating unique green ambiance


A traditional shopping center located in Burnaby, Brentwood Mall had been a parking-centric retail destination for British Columbians dating back to the 1960s. Spurred by the influx of commuters traveling through the adjacent SkyTrain transit center, the mall in 2014 became the first stage of a multi-phase renovation project to transform the area into a mixed-use development where residents could live, work, and play. New outdoor-connected shopping areas, in tandem with residential towers and commercial space, help make up the new “Amazing Brentwood.” The pedestrian plazas (which are above the new underground parking facility and, in many cases, on stairs), as well as the abutting streetscapes, feature more than 150 trees planted in Silva Cells, providing visitors with uniquely situated green space and welcoming shade.

Installation Summary

Number of Silva Cells: 1,392 (2x)

Total Soil Volume: 1,569 m3 (55,440 ft3 )

Number of Trees: 154

Type of Project: Plaza, Streetscape, On-Structure

Project Designer: SWA Group and Durante Kreuk

Project Contractor: UCC Group

Installation Date of Silva Cells: Summer 2017

The Amazing Brentwood

The Brentwood Mall in Burnaby, British Columbia, was Canada’s largest retail destination upon its opening in 1961 — it featured more than 50 stores, 400,000 square feet of space, and 2,400 parking spots. By the early twenty-first century, two concurrent realities helped spur this traditional mall’s transformation into a contemporary mixed-use development: mall attendance had dropped while area commuter totals had climbed (due to the new SkyTrain transit center, located adjacent to the Brentwood Mall).

The underutilized space at the mall, particularly the 2,000+ parking spots, presented an opportunity for revitalization. The new development — the “Amazing Brentwood” — was an ambitious improvement initiative that sought to not only upgrade the retail space (with more efficient space optimization) but to entirely reinvent the mall as a mixed-used community with residential towers, office space, and new shopping and dining options.

Rethinking low-use retail and mall space — particularly those with a vast sea of unoccupied concrete parking — is a clever way to inject life into a community, and is becoming a bit of a North American trend (as noted in this DeepRoot blog). Connectivity is always a key design component of these projects, as noted by SWA Group (who assisted Durante Kreuk in the public-realm landscaping around Brentwood Mall), which sought to “expand [the mall’s] role as an integrated, sustainable, urban community. With key connectivity to main vehicular arteries and a high-speed train line, the new development functions as a major hub for the region.” SWA Group goes on to say:

“The design focuses on creating a continuum of urban landscape spaces, with a particular focus on pedestrian circulation and the establishment of several smaller, more intimate public spaces.”

One of the best tools we have for developing “intimate public spaces” is urban forestry — and the Amazing Brentwood embraced this strategy with gusto.

Unique Green Space

More than 150 trees were planted in Silva Cells across the new development: nearly 1,400 (2x) in total were installed in the summer of 2017. The trees are not limited to a single streetscape or courtyard, however, as they’ve been integrated throughout the new connective plazas that traverse the mall. This flexibility was attainable in part because of the adjusted approach to visitor parking: in lieu of surface-level parking lots, developers built a six-level deep underground facility, freeing space for innovative connective features within the mall.

Silva Cells were installed above this underground facility, in what was essentially a concrete basin, where the system housed uncompacted soil for new trees while supporting the hardscape above — which, in my locations, features stairs to and from various plaza-style pedestrian corridors. Silva Cells are also providing similar benefits on new streetscapes between mall buildings. Just a few years into the trees’ life and nearly all of them feature impressive growth, providing locals with a unique green ambiance. This growing urban forest offers a number of additional concurrent advantages: reducing the heat island effect in a mostly concrete environment, abating city pollution at a major roadway intersection, and increasing the value of the neighborhood real estate and tax revenue.

Indeed, the Brentwood Mall revitalization project has been such a success that nearly the entire area is being redeveloped. Condos are springing up in every direction as demand for this new trendy neighborhood is exploding — and Silva Cells have been specified in many of these ongoing phases as well. Keep an eye out for more successful urban forestry initiatives in Burnaby!

Project Awards

-2023 Gold Award and Sustainability Commendation (ICSC Global Design & Development Awards)

Additional Resources

Check out these other great Silva Cell projects in the Vancouver area by reading our case studies here, here, and here.


Have a product question or want to talk about a specific project?
Use the form to get in touch.

Contact Us Form

Interested in a DeepRoot product? Get a quote today.

Request a Quote [email protected]

Tel: 415 781 9700
Toll Free: 800 458 7668
Toll Free: 800 277 7668
Fax: 415 781 0191

Sign up to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on news, updates, and product information.