The doors of the University of British Columbia’s new $107-million centrepiece at the Vancouver-Point Grey campus had its soft opening earlier this week.
After nearly three years of construction and four years of planning and public consultation, students and faculty were quick on Monday with taking advantage of the new Student Union Building’s (SUB) facilities.
This is the most significant addition to the campus since the 2008 completion of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre across the street.
“It is a substantial and very important project for the AMS, bringing us into the new academic year and also representing a very large initiative of what we’re trying to do for students,” Abby Blinch, AMS Communications Manager, told Vancity Buzz.
“It is really a building built for students, by students, which will hopefully become their home on campus and meets some of the needs the old SUB lacked.”
The new facility, aptly named “the Nest,” has a floor area of 250,000 square feet – a 50 per cent increase in area from the old 1960s-built facility located adjacent to the new five-storey building.
To provide some perspective on just how large this single building is, it consists of the same floor area as the entire Learning Centre.
All activity inside the building is centred around an impressive, airy atrium with a bird’s nest-shaped space and lounge-like amenity hovering high over the expansive concourse spaces. A large glass facade encloses the west side of the atrium, where it meets with the new grassy knoll.
There is an extensive use of wood throughout the building and seats and desks are scattered on every level to provide the campus with much-needed additional study space
On top of nine AMS-operated student support services, a new AMS council chamber, club offices and spaces, the Nest also houses eight eateries and 11 retailers, The Delly, frozen yogourt bar, grocery store, convenience store, Wireless Wave mobile shop, and an upscale casual dining restaurant called ‘Perch’ on the fifth floor with sweeping views of the North Shore Mountains.
Long-time eateries within the old SUB such as Blue Chip Cookies, Pie R Squared Pizza, and Honour Roll Sushi have been relocated to the new building, although some of the eateries have been rebranded with new names.
The famous Pit Pub will have a new and improved space within the basement level, with ample space for dancing, AV equipment and a 55-foot screen.
There is also a performance centre, art exhibition space, rentable spaces like a new large ballroom with glass walls that hangs over University Boulevard, a three-storey climbing wall, radio broadcast facilities, a daycare with 22 spaces, and a 10,740 square foot rooftop garden and public space with a water feature and outdoor seating.
Most of the building’s interior is complete, but crews will spend the next few weeks to install final furnishings and complete several eateries and shops that have yet to open.
The entire building has achieved the highest green building rating in North America – a LEED Platinum standard – with features that include triple glazing, solar-powered cooling, solar water heaters, radiant heating and cooling in floors, green roof technology, water efficient landscaping that uses grey water, natural air ventilation, and a composting facility that processes up to 30 tonnes of organic waste annually.
The process to build a new SUB first began in 2007 and students approved the project and tuition hikes through a referendum the following year. Students were also heavily involved in the design of the project and ultimately chose local firms DIALOG and B+H Architects to design the new building.
“It is really remarkable that this is an AMS student member initiative, and they were intrinsic in the design and the use of the project,” said AMS spokesperson Jollean Willington. “Even the remaking of the food outlets that the AMS owns were influenced by student input.”
The cost of the project is largely covered by a hike in student fees in tuition, with the UBC administration contributing $25 million.
UBC’s student population has grown significantly since the old SUB opened its doors. The Vancouver-Point Grey campus has approximately 50,000 faculty and staff.
The Nest was originally scheduled for a fall 2014 opening, but complications with some of the construction materials led to a number of delays.
Grand opening celebrations for the Nest will occur sometime over the summer.
Meanwhile, UBC administration’s plans to convert the old SUB into the ‘UBC Life Building’ are uncertain. The aging structure would be repurposed for counselling, health and well-being programs, academic and career advising, international and experiential learning, athletic and recreational spaces, and informal learning spaces are uncertain.
The cost of the old SUB conversion was last pegged at $58 million and there is no timeline for the project.