Students sweat out the heat wave while UBC builds new residences with air conditioning

UBC students in residence have been enduring the record-breaking heat wave across much of the Pacific Northwest without central air conditioning.

On Monday, the temperature at UBC hit 36.6°C and yesterday, a new Canadian temperature record was set in Lytton, BC — for the third day in a row. UBC posted a list of air-conditioned places on campus on Monday afternoon.

Students struggle to stay cool in residence

Second-year arts student Michael Lu said his Marine Drive apartment reached 36.4°C yesterday despite the use of a portable air conditioner.

Lu said he’d gladly pay more in rent if it meant he had central AC in his residence. “But … at this point, I'm paying 1.1 grand for a hot room that I can't live or breathe in.”

He said his portable AC sometimes trips the circuit breakers in his dorm, hindering its efficacy.

But Lu noted that to him, “AC is a privilege and not a right.” He said the main issue was that UBC had published no resources for students as to where to go to cool down until the heat wave had already started.

Tommy Tho, a fifth-year computer science student who lives in Exchange Residence, said the heat has interfered with his sleep.

“I've woken up periodically throughout the night, for the past couple weeks now, just sweating.”

Tho said he’s been getting by using his small fan, taking breaks from work when the heat gets to him and staying in the lower part of his suite to survive the heat.

“Ideally, there would be a more centralized air conditioning unit in the building,” said Tho.

He also highlighted a 2019 article recently posted to reddit where the lack of AC in Exchange was heralded as part of the energy savings that allowed the building to achieve LEED Gold certification. Tho said this made it appear that AC is “not in the picture right now” for UBC buildings.

AC coming in new residences

In a statement to The Ubyssey, UBC Associate VP Student Housing and Community Services (SHCS) Andrew Parr wrote that historically, air conditioning was not needed at UBC due to Vancouver's “more moderate climate.”

In light of the heat wave, SHCS opened Mercante and Open Kitchen as air conditioned locations available to students on June 28 and 29. SHCS sent an email to students in residence advising them on how to stay cool and locations of open air conditioned buildings on campus.

Parr said new residences such as Pacific Residence building one — recently renamed tə šxʷhəleləm̓s tə k̓ʷaƛ̓kʷəʔaʔɬ (The Houses of the Ones Belonging to the Saltwater in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓), Brock Commons phase two and future year round housing will all have central air conditioning. He added that UBC plans to retrofit Cedar House with AC and is considering doing the same to other existing residences.

“UBC has been aware of the effects of climate change and in 2019 policy changed, requiring all new buildings to be ‘climate ready’. Essentially this means new residences require cooling to keep occupants comfortable,” Parr said.