A look into the next twenty years of UBC Okanagan.

The construction around campus is prevalent. There is no getting around it. UBC Okanagan is a young university with a high potential for growth. There are constant rumours flying about regarding what the future will bring for the campus. These questions can easily be put to rest by UBC itself. The Campus Plan is an 82-page document outlining exactly what the future holds for UBC Okanagan.

In UBCO’s final Campus Plan document, it is understood that each year, the campus will be increasing the number of students allowed in. In order to accommodate for this, UBC Okanagan has to keep building concurrently to the number of students being allowed in. Main campus, which is the focus of the UBCO Campus Plan, is 105 hectares. While the focus of this plan is on these 105 hectares, UBC Okanagan is looking to the future; in 2010 the University purchased an extra 103.6 hectares of land located west of Main Campus.

Future Construction

So far, the University is on track with its construction. The master plan specifically references the addition of a new entrance into campus through the Glenmore landfill route through John Hindle Drive, and that construction is currently taking place. This new entrance to campus is integral in another main aspect of the Campus Plan. The plan speaks to the creation of a main street on campus that will be “a pedestrian-and bicycle-only public realm that provides a venue for student gatherings, informal interaction, festivals and celebration.” Currently, the placing of this street is aimed to be at University Way between Alumni Avenue and International Mews.

Another important feature of this plan is the construction of a new Okanagan Commons building which will face the commons field. This building “is envisioned as a natural extension of the existing University Centre, with the primary goal to provide a home for a number of complementary campus activities.” This building will also address the “critical need for large classroom space, additional food service space, opportunities for commercial expansion, and informal student studying and gathering space.” UBC wants to take this opportunity of construction and planning for a new building courtyard landscape, to “seek to engage the aboriginal community” in order to “identify programming and design opportunities” and “celebrate and strengthen the relationship between the Okanagan Nation Alliance” and UBC.

It is not only the Commons that UBC wants to modify. The long-term goal for the University is to have the current central courtyard, i.e. the courtyard located by Arts, Science, the Library, and Admin, become the central social hub of the school. This will include outdoor furniture, more protection from bad weather, and if a donor is interested, there is the potential to include “an ephemeral water feature that could be converted to an artificially cooled skating rink in the winter.” However, this would be based on donation and is not a set part of the Campus Plan.


UBC has also looked forward to the housing of students as the University continues to grow. The plan states that “to support the animation and vitality of the campus core and bring more residents closer to transit,” they have proposed “a new residential neighbourhood for students” at the “southeast corner of campus.” One residence would be “at the south end of Nonis Field and two more residences [would be] adjacent to a new (second) recreation field east of Alumni Avenue,” which is where the Quonset and work yards are. They have also included a provision for a residential 10-story tower, “which would be permitted as in the ‘University’s zoning,’” and will be created with “upper-year students or faculty and staff” in mind. The tower is planned for construction west of Discovery Avenue. The reasoning for this new neighbourhood is to “broaden and enhance the strong recreation, health and wellness character of the area.”

However, this neighbourhood is not the only addition that is mentioned in the Campus Plan. The already existing dorm residences along International Mews will be “extended northward to frame Purcell Courts,” and the plan is to add “three-story townhouses” to the future hilltown neighbourhood. These additions, combined with the “Nonis Neighbourhood” will provide an “additional housing capacity of approximately 2,200 additional beds.”

The Nonis sports field is not the only area that may be receiving some updates. H Lot will not be so isolated in the future. The plan hints that “the area north of Parking Lot H [will be] a future hub of academic research and innovation.” However, this could be a fair distance in the future as the plan acknowledges that “specifics on the land uses and development pattern for this area will be defined at a future date” due to the planning and “policies on partnerships and innovation” though they are “identified as part of a comprehensive plan” that will affect this area moving forward. This future plan for the land surrounding H Lot will be done with the plan to establish a lower campus which will provide “distinct opportunities for integrating academic and research uses” while simultaneously optimizing potential opportunities for community engagement and integration.

In addition to these changes around campus, there will be minor changes to the Arts and Science courtyard, the Purcell Courts, and the recreational field by the pond near the EME building.

“Throughout this process, UBC is keeping in mind its emphasis on sustainability.”

Academics and Sustainability

This plan keeps in mind how focused UBC Okanagan is on research, and how integral academics are to the campus. Due to this, “the Campus Plan identifies areas and sites to accommodate a potential doubling of academic and residential capacity over the next 20 years,” ensuring that academics remain paramount and do not fall to the wayside in this massive undertaking. As of 2015, the land area that encompasses academics specifically grosses “about 72,000m2,” and due to potential future need “the Campus Plan provides an additional 85,292m2 of academic space within the campus core.”

As this renovation of the campus is a large undertaking, the Board of Governors has an Approval process where “all proposed new facilities and renovations require a Planning Approval from UBC Campus Planning and Development (CPD) in the Okanagan.” The CPD is responsible for “assessing capital project conformance with The Campus Plan and the accompanying UBC Okanagan Design Guidelines, as well as municipal zoning for the campus, and providing the campus community the opportunity to review and comment on the schematic design.”

Throughout this process, UBC is keeping in mind its emphasis on sustainability. UBC will require teams working on the expansion to maintain sustainability reporting requirements and sustainability workshops. In order to support this sustainable process, the CPD and Campus and Community will create a “Design Brief for each Major Capital Project” following approval. This will be developed “in consultation with the Steering Committee and Working Group members who will assist in identifying and prioritizing social, environmental and economic goals, based on The Campus Plan, UBC Okanagan Design Guidelines, green building policies, project program and budget opportunities, constraints and priorities.”

The Campus Plan will extend past the north mews to “new residences and Purcell Courts where slopes increase at the edge of Ponderosa Pine Woodland.” However, the Ponderosa Pine Woodland (located south of Quail Ridge) will not be affected by the current campus plan: “based on the projected program to 2035 it is not needed for development and is therefore to be retained in its current use and maintained to enhance ecological values.”

As UBCO grows, the campus plan “deliberately locates most vehicle parking at access points and the periphery of campus” as to give priority to pedestrians within the heart of campus. However, while the campus will be pedestrian priority, the University has accounted for the needs of a rapidly growing population. As of 2015, there were roughly 2,700 parking spaces on campus, and the plan states that “an addition of 1,300 spaces are needed to support campus growth over the long term.”

Section Five of the Campus Plan entails Design Strategies and Guidelines. This section presents guidelines that are relevant across the campus for urban design, landscape, views, universal accessibility and sustainability. Please also refer to The Campus Plan companion document, UBC Okanagan Design Guidelines, for more detailed design guidelines, materials, and specifications to be used during capital project development and reviews.

Currently, many of these aspects of the campus plans are still only that – plans. This Campus Plan details growth for the next twenty years. However, the increase in construction around campus, and the addition of the Teaching and Learning Centre, mark the beginning of this second phase of UBC Okanagan’s growth.