UBC Okanagan opens new high-tech building: the Commons

The doors to a new, multi-million dollar building at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna were officially opened this week.

Called the Commons, the building is a high-tech wonder, with modern classrooms, collaborative study areas and a digital technology centre. The multipurpose facility cost $35 million and dignitaries attended Friday’s opening, including Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr.

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“The new Commons building will help students and researchers thrive and succeed. UBC students are our future leaders in many areas such as tech, science and engineering, and they’re helping us build the best B.C.,” said Melanie Mark, B.C.’s Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

“By investing in bright, modern facilities, students at UBC’s Okanagan campus now have the space they need that will help prepare them to be industry ready for in-demand 21st-century careers.”

According to UBCO, the Commons has a high-tech 400-seat classroom and a visualization lab to facilitate data modelling in research fields.

The classroom is said to be the largest on campus and will enhance access to high-demand courses while supporting active learning. Also, approximately 20 per cent of seating will be accessible to students using wheelchairs.

“Our government is proud to invest $2 billion for infrastructure improvement at post-secondary institutions across Canada,” said Fuhr. “Modern learning spaces are key to helping students develop the skills they’ll need for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“Investing in students is investing in a positive future for all of us,” said Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast. “The Commons at [UBCO] provides students with a phenomenal teaching and learning facility. It will also benefit everyone through the cutting-edge research and highly trained graduates we’ll need to power our strong and innovative economy.”

The university said approximately $9.8 million came from UBCO students paying an annual levy.

“Students were the first donors to The Commons and have contributed $10 million to the project,” said UBC Students Union Okanagan president Amal Alhuwayshil. “We are very proud of this legacy, which we leave to future generations of students and to our UBC Okanagan campus.

“These new spaces open up much-needed study space and inspire collaboration. They support our ability to create world-class projects, right here at UBC Okanagan.”

According to UBCO:

  • The Commons and campus sustainability upgrades were funded with $15.97 million from the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), $11.33 million from the province of British Columbia, and $13.47 million from UBC.
  • In B.C., 20 public post-secondary institutions and one private First Nations institution benefited from a total of 30 individual projects through SIF.
  • Investments through SIF are being used to modernize facilities at Canadian universities and colleges, as well as improve the energy efficiency of these facilities and reduce their impact on the environment.
  • Total capital funding for all B.C. SIF projects is $682 million: $256 million from the federal government, $269 million from B.C. and $157 million from post-secondary institutions and donors.
  • The SIF portion of all 30 projects are now substantially complete.
  • With the official completion of the two projects at the UBC Okanagan campus, there are now six more projects to be officially opened.

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