On a hay bale podium, dignitaries officially opened the new student housing at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre last week.
The event was filled with good wishes for the centre and congratulations to all the people and organizations who helped make this long-standing dream a reality. Dr. Jim Thompson, director of the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre, kicked it off with a telling remark about the care that students and staff have for the animals under their watch.
“We’ve looked after the animals,” says Thompson. “Now, it’s nice to look after our students.”
Thompson spoke of the connection between the UBC centre and the dairy industry, stating it is very fortunate to have an industry that supports the centre, something quite unique in comparison to many other scientific groups.
Representing the BC Dairy Association, local dairy farmer Holger Schwichtenberg complimented the UBC research centre staff for building up relationships with the local dairy industry, so when they came with a big ask of the industry for support, there was buy-in.
“I’m proud and honoured the industry in the Fraser Valley and British Columbia are part of this,” said Schwichtenberg.
District of Kent Coun. Duane Post said with the District’s “strong dairy industry, much of what happens here directly benefits dairy farmers.” Post shared that the District was proud to partner with an organization such as UBC and applauded their open-door policy from participating in events such as the slow food cycle tours to having various seminars open to the public and educational initiatives.
“We’re thrilled to see the new student residences completed,” Post concluded. “We wish you all the best with your research projects and furthering education for all.”
The unique 32-bed facility is situated on the campus grounds right by the dairy barns and features eight 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom units. John Metras, UBC’s managing director of infrastructure development, says of all of UBC’s student housing, “This is probably one of the most spectacular residences in our whole housing portfolio.”
The new building replaces student residences that have outlived their time, with one building dating back more than 100 years and the other built in 1924 plus a circa 1970’s mobile home. Two students spoke on the podium, affirming that the old homes will not be missed for their tight quarters and overly-shared bathrooms, though they will miss the memories made by their peers and countless students before them.
UBC grad student Tracy Burnett says for a “city kid” like her, on-site student housing is so important because it allows her to be “immersed in the dairy industry.” The students have a chance to bounce ideas off of researchers from all over the world who come to the facility and to work in close proximity with other students and the animals 24/7.
Nelson Dinn, operations manager, was thanked throughout the event by many speakers for his tireless efforts at the centre, from leading tours to training students to seeing projects like the student residence through from idea to implementation. Stated simply, Dinn said “This day has been a long time coming,” adding that the facility is a fantastic addition to the dairy centre.
The building, designed by architect Oliver Lang and built by Benno Spaeti’s team at Spaeti Construction, features geothermal technology, lots of windows for natural light, common areas for social interaction, laundry facilities and a courtyard between the units.
“We designed it so it’s modern and contemporary, but fits within the environment of the barns around us,” explained Lang after the ceremony. “We positioned the building so the outline creates a beautiful relationship to the mountains.”
Spaeti, a District of Kent builder, says the building presented some unique challenges and he worked through every detail to ensure that the best materials were chosen while at the same time keeping it cost-effective.
While the official opening took place Wednesday, Sept. 16, there are still some t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted before students can actually move in.