UBC planning $315 million facility expansion of medical research and nursing schools

Jan 29 2021, 1:19 pm

Another wave of major construction is planned for the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Point Grey campus, with the key projects creating new health sciences facilities located at the main gateway into the campus.

Demolition work on the D.H. Copp Building at 2146 Health Sciences Mall, located mid-block on the south side of University Boulevard between Wesbrook Mall and East Mall, just west of the David Strangway Building and next to the bus stops for the trolleys, is set to begin this spring.

The aging building, now reaching nearly 60 years old, permanently closed last year to prepare the site for the new School of Biomedical Engineering Building (SBME), which is a partnership between the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Applied Science.

The new flagship replacement building currently carries an estimated construction cost of $136 million, complete with a 250-seat lecture theatre, classrooms, laboratories, office space, and meeting, informal learning, and student community spaces.

UBC School of Biomedical Engineering Building SBME

Preliminary conceptual artistic rendering of the UBC School of Biomedical Engineering Building. (UBC)

A preliminary artistic rendering suggests this will be a four-storey building, with its interior spaces configured around a central atrium. Extensive wood materials will be used, and the university has noted this will be a LEED Gold green building.

The total floor area exceeds 151,000 sq. ft., which is more than three times the size of the existing temporary SBME within the nearby Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). The existing facility, recently renovated, does not serve current and future needs, lacks classrooms, and mainly houses administration, some core research facilities, and a small venture incubation hub.

UBC School of Biomedical Engineering Building SBME

Site of the D.H. Copp Building at 2146 Health Sciences Mall, the future location of the new School of Biomedical Engineering Building. (Google Maps)

UBC School of Biomedical Engineering Building SBME

Site of the D.H. Copp Building at 2146 Health Sciences Mall, the future location of the new School of Biomedical Engineering Building. (Google Maps)

A larger facility will provide the capacity for program growth over the next five years to accommodate 500 undergraduate and 220 graduate students, all the while creating a centralized hub for human health research, teaching, and entrepreneurship. A coordinated “hub and spoke” model of education, research, and innovation programs will eventually be achieved, considering the close proximity of other health sciences facilities and UBC Hospital.

“The school’s vision is focused on building health from biology through a robust pipeline of efforts across scales from engineering the molecular structures to implementing novel community based healthcare solutions,” reads the project description.

“The SBME faculty will conduct research that advances our fundamental understanding of human biology and that yields technologies and therapies that advance health and well-being.”

UBC School of Biomedical Engineering Building SBME

Fencing around the D.H. Copp Building at 2146 Health Sciences Mall, in preparation for demolition for the new School of Biomedical Engineering Building. (UBC)

Just across the street at the northwest corner of the intersection of University Boulevard and Wesbrook Mall, there are plans to build a new landmark centralized building for the Faculty of Applied Science’s School of Nursing, Faculty of Education’s School of Kinesiology, the campus’ new Integrated Student Health Services, and some of the operations of UBC Health.

The site for the Gateway Building, the interim name for the project given its highly prominent location, has been vacant for some years now, after the General Administration building was demolished.

“As the principal point of entry and historical arrival route to UBC, the building will play a critical role in creating an academic gateway experience and is an opportunity to express the university’s identity and values,” reads the project description.

“The building will be a welcoming academic gateway to campus, and signify a world class university; it will be built to superior architectural, urban design, and sustainability standards with a focus on well-being. The building will support a positive and memorable arrival experience.”

ubc gateway building school of nursing

Site of the future Gateway Building at the northwest corner of the intersection of Wesbrook Mall and University Boulevard. (Google Maps)

ubc gateway building school of nursing

Site of the future Gateway Building at the northwest corner of the intersection of Wesbrook Mall and University Boulevard. (Google Maps)

It will have four large lecture theatres to help address the university’s challenges with scheduling large classes.

The nursing school’s teaching space will benefit from new “high-fidelity” simulation labs and a “team-based primary care inter-professional teaching clinic prototype.”

“This clinic, coordinated by UBC Health, will serve an important function in collaborative health education, with the classrooms and research labs, in augmenting the project’s collaborative space by facilitating inter-professional clinical teaching,” reads the project description.

“Students across the health disciplines will have the opportunity to function in inter-professional teams and will be better equipped to carry the requisite knowledge, skills, and values into their future practice of collaborative, inter-professional, team-based patient care.”

ubc gateway building school of nursing

Site of the future Gateway Building at the northwest corner of the intersection of Wesbrook Mall and University Boulevard. The General Administration building on the site was demolished about a decade ago. (Google Maps)

Currently, the nursing school has 240 undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Nursing students, 253 graduate students, and offers health-related courses for up to 300 undergraduate students in other programs. But the school has been using temporary facilities for nearly four decades, with insufficient and outdated classrooms, unsuitable research facilities and teaching labs, and a lack of informal learning and administrative spaces.

The total floor area of the Gateway Building is proposed to reach 239,585 sq. ft. For comparison, this exceeds the floor area of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

The new purpose-built and expanded nursing school spaces will allow for admissions into the nurse practitioner program to be increased. This growth in enrolment capacity is in response to the persistent shortage in nurses, which will worsen without intervention due to the aging population and rising issues with mental health and opioid addictions.

Both health sciences buildings on University Boulevard currently carry a combined construction cost of $315 million, with $136 million for the SBME and $179 million for the Gateway Building.

The projects are currently in their early design and planning stages, following a timeline for a completion and opening in 2024, which will drastically change the streetscape of the main gateway into the campus.

UBC also has two other new major academic buildings in the pipeline, including a new $224 million Chemistry Laboratory Complex with a total floor area of over 250,000 sq. ft., and $118 million Mathematics Building with a total floor area of 182,000 sq. ft. But these projects, previously also planned for 2024, currently do not have established timelines.

All four academic and research buildings — carrying a combined cost approaching $700 million — will be funded by a combination of government and UBC contributions, and fundraising.

The university also has a number of major projects planned or already under construction, including the new 1,000-bed Pacific Residence student housing complex reaching completion this summer, located north of the bus exchange, next to Gage Residence.

There are firm plans to build the second phase of Brock Commons — a multi-tower, mixed-use hub at the intersection of East Mall and Walter Gate Road with 600 student beds, and academic and administrative spaces. But the timeline for this project, originally set to begin construction last year, has shifted due to COVID-19’s temporary impact on student housing demand.

UBC Brock Commons Phase II

Artistic rendering of UBC Brock Commons Phase II. (HCMA Architecture + Design)

new ubc war memorial gymnasium 1

Artistic rendering of the new UBC War Memorial Gymnasium. (UBC)

A similar future mixed-use hub combining academic space and student housing was planned for the northwest corner of Wesbrook Mall and Agronomy Road, but this was recently cancelled. Instead, it is now designated as a future academic and research-only expansion space for the Faculty of Medicine to accommodate their growth needs in close proximity to their existing buildings.

Other major development plans on campus entail new and improved recreational facilities, including the possibility for a new replacement War Memorial Gymnasium at its current location next to the future Gateway Building, and a new mixed-use residential and commercial redevelopment on the large footprint of Thunderbird Stadium and the surrounding areas, with a new replacement 10,000-seat stadium on a smaller footprint.

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