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Biological Sciences Complex, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Thursday 01 Sep 2011

Sheer brilliance in Vancouver

All images courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects 
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Regenerated wings at University of British Columbia extend building's life by 40+ years 

The Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia this week celebrated the official opening of its newly envisioned Departments of Botany and Zoology. Described by Carl J. Douglas, an Associate Professor at the Department of Botany as ‘warm, inviting, modern, functional and extremely well designed’, the renewed educational facilities are the result of a 19-month under-budget project by local practice Acton Ostry Architects.

Originally constructed in 1948 by architects Sharp and Thompson, the University’s Vancouver campus has had additional wings and departments hashed on over the years by a medley of design studios. Acton Ostry Architects’ recent scheme - partially funded by the Government of Canada’s Knowledge Infrastructure Program - binds two of the institution’s busiest departments in a contemporary, flexible and highly intelligent envelope, bringing it in line with current building standards.

The project extends over 170,000 sq ft and incorporates a number of laboratories, aquaria, informal research spaces, classrooms, seminar rooms and social gathering spaces in the South and West Wings of the campus. As with all large-scale educational projects of this nature, sustainability played a key role in the design. The completed Wings have achieved a LEED Gold standard through 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.

One of the most effective introductions is a series of seismic buttresses which not only accommodate the latest earthquake structural requirements but are adorned with laminated glass panels upon which are printed abstract forms relating to either the Botany or Zoology Departments. Illuminated at night, these sheer panes are a simple yet highly effective aesthetic and wayfinding device which is used to equal effect within the buildings. Patterned glass, natural wood panelling and additional circulation patterns are used internally to identify the various laboratories and encourage cross-disciplinary interaction.

In a quiet reflection of the boundary-pushing ethos of the University, Acton Ostry Architects has integrated a very innovative technological element to the building’s glasswork. Part of a UBC-led pilot project, a prototype technology developed by SunCentral has been introduced which increases the depth that sunshine can reach inside buildings. This groundbreaking solar lighting system reduces the energy demands of the building, therefore lowering greenhouse gas emissions and financial costs to the University.

The strongest measure of success is an everyday user’s response, and clearly this project has hit a high note as Dr. Jeff Richards, an Associate Professor at the Department of Zoology concludes: “Acton Ostry transformed a bland, outdated and ineffectual academic building into an exciting and vibrant research environment. The open concept research laboratories are designed with efficiency and flexibility in mind while the choice of materials, amenities, and design concept provide a comfortable and user-friendly workspace. This design concept also appears throughout the buildings newly renovated offices, meeting rooms, and strategically placed informal meeting areas that serve as the hub for professor / student interactions.”

Key Facts

Status Completed
Value 31.5(m€)
Were you involved in this scheme?
Acton Ostry Architects

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