The Ponderosa Commons offers a unique mix of living and academic space that redefines campus residence
UBC is welcoming another 603 students into residence this fall with the opening of the Ponderosa Commons, which offers a unique twist on residence life.
Built around the concept of vibrant residential hub, the new living quarters increase the number of students housed at UBC’s Vancouver campus to 10,066, giving it the largest housing program in Canada, with some of the most modern living facilities. A 1,600 bed Marine Drive residence was completed in 2008, and Place Vanier, Totem Park and Walter Gage residences have undergone comprehensive renovations in the past few years.
Unlike traditional residences, Ponderosa Commons is a mix of living and academic space. It contains UBC’s first commuter collegium a home away from home for first-year students living off campus. It also houses the Audain Art Centre, which includes an art gallery and learning space, studios and labs for visual and digital arts students, and the Department of Geography’s Geofluvial Lab. Study areas and dining, fitness, and end-of-trip bicycle facilities are open to the entire campus community.
Located in the centre of campus at the corner of University Boulevard and West Mall, the residence spaces in the new Ponderosa Commons are open to students in second year and above and are split into three houses: Maple, Arbutus and Spruce. About 50 per cent of students will get their own studio apartments while the other 50 per cent will be sharing two and four-bedroom apartments – all equipped with bathrooms, kitchens and living areas.
Gallery of Ponderosa Commons and other UBC student residences
“Ponderosa Commons is designed to bring life to the campus core 12 months a year,” says Joe Stott, director of planning with Campus and Community Planning. “The social spaces established in Ponderosa will create a hub of activity and contribute to a stronger sense of community on campus.”
Building community and advancing sustainability
Andrew Parr, managing director of Student Housing & Hospitality Services, explains that these student housing hubs helps foster both formal and informal interactions between students, faculty and staff.
“UBC can be quite large and daunting,” he says. “These smaller communities really provide you with an opportunity get to know your colleagues and fellow students.”
Not only is Ponderosa Commons contributing to the social sustainability on campus, it is also on target to meet LEED Gold certification.
The exterior facades of the two towers are made of a unique concrete-insulation-concrete “sandwich” panel that keeps the buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
A mechanical system returns warm air to the building and sensors prevent residents from being able to blast their heat when their window is open, minimizing energy waste. Student Housing & Hospitality Services also wants to find a way to display energy consumption and water use, hoping this, along with other awareness and education initiatives, will contribute to positive behaviour changes. Research conducted at UBC shows that inhabitants of green buildings are more likely to act sustainably and consider the environmental impact of their actions.
Time for campus activities
Adding 603 beds on campus means hundreds of students won’t be making the daily commute to UBC, giving them more time for schoolwork and extracurricular activities.
“Ponderosa Commons is designed to bring life to the campus core 12 months a year.” -Joe Stott
Residence Advisor Holly Dysserinck, who will be one of the first students moving into the Ponderosa Commons this fall, understands that having extra time to get involved in campus life can make a huge difference to the student experience.
“Getting involved added a whole other dimension to my degree,” says the French major from Maple Ridge, B.C. “The more you get involved in campus, the more ownership you have over your community.”
Dysserinck hopes to transfer her passion for getting involved to the students she’ll be overseeing in residence. As a residence advisor, Dysserinck’s job is to make sure that residence is a safe and fun place for students to live and that occupants have plenty of opportunity to get to know one another.
“If I hadn’t lived on campus, I don’t think I would have so much passion for the institution.”
Not your parents’ dormitory
UBC’s Vancouver campus has the highest percentage of beds per full time students in Canada.
And the University has a mandate to build even more housing on campus. The Vancouver Campus Plan has set aside land to allow for about 16,000 spaces to be built over time, or up to 50 per cent of the 2010 full time student count.
UBC is fortunate to have the funds to continually invest in improving building facilities thanks to prudent management of its housing stock. In addition, the cost of growth in its housing stock in attainable due to the creation of a Student Housing Financing Endowment that permits the university to secure financing for these major capital projects. Across North America, it is a different story. Many universities are struggling to make upgrades and keep living spaces in good shape. After years of deferring maintenance, it can be challenging to come up with the money to give buildings a much-needed makeover.
Recent renovations at UBC’s traditional first year residences, Totem Park and Place Vanier, have enhanced the living environment for students. Contemporary and attractive Commonsblock re-designs provide a range of services and amenities. Music practice rooms, fitness centres, wireless Internet, informal gathering spaces, quiet study rooms, activity rooms, and event spaces make these facilities a hub of activity. Each Commonsblock also has a modern dining room that provides a wide array of sustainable, fresh and diverse meal offerings. Older single and shared rooms in these residences have been renovated and modernized to meet the needs of today’s students. New houses at Totem Park offer students a private bedroom and washroom that is shared with just one other student, a concept that is proving to be popular.
UBC’s Residence Life program is designed to make sure students thrive in residence. Events and activities are held so that students get to know their community and form lasting friendships. Residence advisors live on every floor or block and there is at least one dedicated staff member in every building. When a student gets homesick, has roommate issues or is dealing with something more serious, someone is available day or night who can connect them to the support services on campus.
“Community building from living in residence is quite powerful,” says Parr. “Students tend to do better academically and socially when they live on campus.”