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Newly renovated Biological Sciences Building at the University of British Columbia opens


August 30, 2011
by Canadian Architect

Acton Ostry Architects has announced the opening of the newly renovated Biological Sciences Complex, South and West Wings at the University of British Columbia. The $45-million, 170,000-square-foot project includes the renewal of spaces originally built more than 50 years ago. The complex now houses new state-of-the-art laboratories, aquaria, informal research spaces, classrooms, seminar rooms and gathering spaces for the departments of botany and zoology.

“On behalf of the Faculty of Science, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation for your hard work in making this dream become a reality. It is a spectacular facility that will no doubt spawn exciting scientific discoveries and produce a generation of global citizens,” stated David Shorthouse, Assistant Dean, Finance and Administration, University of British Columbia.

The Biological Sciences Complex is located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Main Mall and University Boulevard, adjacent to a network of related teaching and research facilities. The complex is comprised of the original Centre Block, designed by Sharp and Thompson in 1948, that was later surrounded by a South Wing, by Thompson Berwick & Pratt in 1957, a West Wing facing Main Mall, and a North Wing facing University Boulevard, both by Duncan McNab and Associates in 1970 and 1974 respectively.

The Biological Sciences Complex was funded in partnership with the Government of Canada’s stimulus funding Knowledge Infrastructure Program. Completed in less than 19 months, the design and construction of the project came in under budget and ahead of the program’s schedule.

The project has dramatically transformed the South and West Wings, which were identified as having the highest levels of deferred maintenance – therefore providing the greatest opportunity to achieve synergies between academic priorities and code, seismic, scholastic, and energy-saving programs.

“Acton Ostry transformed a bland, outdated and ineffectual academic building into an exciting and vibrant research environment. The overall aesthetic is both functional and visually appealing,” stated Jeff Richards, Associate Professor, Department of Zoology.

By upgrading the building systems, partitions and finishes, the life of the West and South Wings has been extended by at least 40 years. “In addition to its visual appeal, the technical aspects of the research space are outstanding, from lab benches and support rooms to lighting, temperature control systems and furnishings. It is a pleasure to occupy our new space. Botany faculty, students and staff look forward to many years of productive work in the pleasing environment of the renewed space,” stated Carl J. Douglas, Professor, Department of Botany.

Designed to LEED Gold, the complex incorporates a partial building envelope upgrade; new thermally broken double-glazing; highly efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems; heat recovery; high-efficiency pumps and reduced water consumption. The addition of a bioswale located between the West Wing and Main Mall mitigates stormwater runoff and provides an educational landscape.

New seismic upgrade measures were introduced to the exterior of the complex. Of particular interest, three seismic buttresses have been introduced to accommodate the latest earthquake structural requirements. The concrete buttresses are clad with laminated glass panels that are illuminated at night. The glass panels are printed with botanical and zoological images, visually referencing the building’s use and animating the pedestrian walkway along the Main Mall of the campus.

The interior, comprised of laboratories, classrooms, faculty and administrative offices, includes more window area to let in natural daylight and to offer views of the campus. The corridors incorporate large expanses of glass to allow natural daylight to pass deep into the interior of the building. The botanical and zoological image patterning used on the exterior seismic buttresses has been introduced into the interior of the building in the form of large glass panels that mark and identify the various laboratories throughout the complex. The combination of patterned glass, natural wood panelling, and improved circulation patterns creates a welcoming space that will facilitate cross-disciplinary interaction between students and faculty.

As part of a UBC-led pilot project, the design team incorporated the installation of an innovative prototype technology developed by SunCentral that increases the depth that sunshine can reach into buildings. Developed by Dr. Lorne Whitehead, Professor and NSERC/3M Chair, and his Structured Surface Physics Lab at the University of British Columbia, the innovative solar lighting system reduces the amount of energy consumed thereby decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and maximizing energy savings.

The Biological Sciences Complex project was built by Scott Construction Group with project management by UBC Infrastructure Development.


UBC biological sciences complex
UBC biological sciences complex


Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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