29 UBC buildings considered "very high risk" of collapse in earthquake

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A report by engineering firm JM Engineering and Glotman-Simpson Consulting Engineers said that dozens of buildings on UBC’s Point Grey campus are at risk of collapse should an earthquake strike.

Twenty-nine of those structures are considered “very high risk” of collapse in a moderate seismic event – that’s 5.0 on the richter scale or higher.

Arno Rosenfeld, features editor of the university’s student paper The Ubyssey, made the discovery after he filed a freedom of information act request with the B.C. government regarding some emails sent by Premier Christy Clark during UBC’s presidential transition.

The report was mentioned in the emails between Arvind Gupta and Premier Clark when Gupta was requesting funding for upgrades.

“It’s something that there’s been awareness of – they’re trying to turn the old student union building at UBC into a campus life building and moving some services into that building and in the university’s efforts to do that, they’ve referenced that some of the buildings are seismically unsound,” Rosenfeld told Vancity Buzz.

In his article published in The Ubyssey, Rosenfeld states that the Hebb, H.R. Macmillan and Leonard S. Klinck buildings are all likely to have full or partial collapse during an earthquake. Part of the Museum of Anthropology is rated as a “very high risk” building.

Although the numbers sound scary, Rosenfeld insists UBC is much more prepared for an earthquake than other areas of Vancouver – the school has a total of 400 structures, and less than 30 of them are at risk of full or partial collapse.

Many of the buildings are in the process of being upgraded and they have made significant progress over the last twenty years, according to head of Infrastructure Development at UBC John Metras.

“Forty-one per cent of the building floorspace on campus was considered within the high risk category from a seismic perspective,” Metras told Vancity Buzz.

“We’re down to 11 per cent now which is still, from our perspective, not acceptable.”

To bring the remaining buildings up to code, UBC has an upgrade plan in place and they are currently doing work on the Hebb Lecture Theatre. The Bio Sciences North and Centre block buildings are going to be worked on next year.

All of the buildings on campus that are in need of upgrades were built as early as 1924 and as late as the 80s. Metras said No buildings built after 1989 need upgrades.

The school, in association with the provincial government, plans to invest $36 million over the next 12 years specifically for seismic upgrades.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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