Classroom upgrades ahead of schedule

by Andy Poon
Staff writer

UBC is on track to surpass its Trek 2000 targets to upgrade classrooms and labs throughout the campus.

Since 1996, 20 per cent of all classrooms have been upgraded. That's ahead of the goal set forth in the university's vision statement, Trek 2000, to have 15 per cent of UBC classrooms renovated by this fall. Progress has also been made on improving lab facilities with seven per cent of all teaching labs upgraded so far.

"This is a good news story since we're ahead of the plan," says Suzanne Poohkay, manager of capital programs for Campus Planning and Development.

Working from the classroom master plan developed by Cambridge, Mass.-based architectural consultants, Ellenzweig Associates Inc., Poohkay says the challenge has been to prioritize the 410 classrooms and 374 teaching labs across campus for the renovations.

"It's a huge list," she says. "The consultants examined all the rooms and divided them into groups -- those easy to improve and other, key classrooms that are more difficult to work on."

"Easy" classrooms are those defined as seating between 20 to 80 people. These tend to be highly utilized rooms that with some painting, new window coverings, new seating and the like would be improved to a more acceptable condition. Of the 286 classrooms across campus identified as such, 50 are slated as priorities in the next phase of upgrading.

"Key" classrooms are those defined as larger, seating 100 to 200 students and are heavily used, often serving as the backbone facility for a number of faculties.

While they are fundamentally sound, these classrooms are often poorly furnished and equipped. They may require mechanical or electrical renovations to raise them to an acceptable level for teaching use. Of the 124 classrooms with more than 100 seats, 15 of these rooms will be targeted in the current round of renovations.

Poohkay says they are working closely with the President's Advisory Committee on Learning Space to develop a multi-year plan to implement the work on the classrooms and labs.

The upgrades affect classrooms and labs in the faculties of Agricultural Sciences, Arts, Applied Science, Commerce and Business Administration, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Science.

Since 1996, $9.6 million has been spent on the classroom and lab renovations. It is estimated that the upgrades to all classrooms will cost $50 million to complete with the pace of renovations contingent on the amount of funding available.