Architecture firms work to balance sustainability with comfort for new student housing complex

As part of a push to increase availability of on-campus housing for students, UBC is constructing a massive new student residence building on Student Union Boulevard.

The project itself will add 1000 beds reserved for upper-year students and will exceed 350,000 square feet in terms of space. The cost of the project stands at $108 million and will take the form of a complex of buildings designed by Hotson Architecture and Ryder Architecture in association.

This project marks the largest undertaking yet for Vancouver-based firm Hotson Architecture.

“One of the biggest challenges is trying to meet the university’s goal of 1000 beds in a relatively compact site,” explained Kai Hotson, principal of Hotson Architecture.

They plan for the layout of the complex to be fairly open, with Hotson adding that, “We have a different scale of buildings … some that are lower rise … others that are taller, and we’ve also broken them up … [to] allow people to walk between [them].”

The complex is also expected to meet UBC’s stringent sustainability goals.

“One challenge … is the amount of window area allowed in buildings … overheating is a real concern in the summertime," said Hotson.

As environmental concerns become a higher priority, designing new projects has become considerably more complicated. “The buildings are being energy modelled,” Hotson explained. “We’re simulating future temperatures and then we work backwards to see how we can design the building not just for today but also for [the future].”

Considering the scope of the project and its intended usage, it is expected that the new complex will also warrant a redesign of surrounding areas in order to deal with a likely increase in pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

According to Andrew Parr of Student Housing and Hospitality Services, UBC is working with campus community planning, infrastructure, development, transportation management and an externally hired design team to “really [create] a connection between the buildings.”