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UBC students pose on the unfinished Chemistry Building during the 1922 Great Trek - photo courtesy of UBC Archives
UBC students pose on the unfinished Chemistry Building during the 1922 Great Trek - photo courtesy of UBC Archives

UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 4 | Apr. 3, 2008

Oldest UBC Building Gets Extreme Makeover

As UBC toasted its first Centenary, the oldest building on its Vancouver campus reopened with new state-of-the-art research and learning facilities and its historic charms intact.

The renewal of the Chemistry Building is the latest project of UBC Renew, a $120-million partnership between UBC and the provincial government designed to breathe new life into older buildings on B.C.’s oldest and largest university campus.

Construction of the Chemistry Building began in 1914 but halted due to World War I and didn’t resume until 1923, following the historic Great Trek of 1922 when 1,200 students marched from a temporary campus near 12th and Cambie to the Point Grey campus, urging the provincial government to continue building UBC.

Major discoveries have been made in the building, including the first noble gas compound and technology that led to the creation of QLT, UBC’s best known spin-off company.

“The Chemistry Building is synonymous with UBC’s history,” said UBC President Stephen Toope at the official opening. “The historic photo of students congregating in the concrete skeleton of this building epitomizes our student activism and the birth of the Point Grey campus. Restoring its past grandeur and modernizing the facility, all the while improving safety and sustainability, is what UBC Renew is all about.”

One of the three buildings in the original 1912 campus plan -- the other two are the Library and the Power Plant -- the renovation includes new lecture theatres, student space, open laboratories with enhanced safety features and a building seismic upgrade.

In addition to preserving a heritage landmark, the Chemistry Renew project incorporated sustainable practices that saved $15.9 million in costs, diverted 323 tons of solid waste from land fills, and prevented 1,155 tons of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere, compared to constructing a new comparable replacement building.

For more information on UBC Renew, visit www.lbs.ubc.ca/renew.

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Last reviewed 03-Apr-2008

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