When Emma Wong walked into the newly opened Exchange Residence and opened the door to her 140-square-foot nano suite, the third-year English undergrad’s reaction was one of pleasant surprise.
“It’s actually bigger than I expected,” said Wong, who spent her first two years on campus at the Place Vanier residence. “I’m excited to have the privacy of my own bathroom, and I think being able to prepare my own meals is a good step toward more independence. I’m used to staying in small spaces, so I’m not too concerned about the size.”
Wong is one of the lucky ones. More than 1,300 students applying for residence this year indicated a preference for the $700/month nano suites, which squeeze a kitchenette, bathroom and convertible bed-desk into 140 square feet of living space. But with nano suites making up just 71 out of 650 beds at the Exchange, demand was high.
Life in a UBC nano suite: dorm tour and video diary
Andrew Parr, managing director of student housing and hospitality services, is not surprised by the response to the units, given the overwhelmingly positive reception a full-scale nano suite mock-up received two years ago when it was installed for a month in the AMS Student Nest.
“When we surveyed students, 83 per cent of respondents were in favour of us building the units, and 91 per cent rated its appeal as satisfactory, good, or excellent,” he said. “A vast majority liked the unit, and said they would very much consider living there for the price we are offering them at.”
One of its most notable features, said Parr, is the bed-desk combination. “In 140-square feet not only do you have a bed, you have a double bed,” he said. “It’s a full-size double which, with two fingers, can be pushed up, and its base becomes your desk.”
Move-in Day at UBC Exchange Residence
The appeal of the nano units extends beyond their clever use of space and low monthly rent of $700—it’s also about what’s on offer beyond the suite’s four walls. All Exchange residents have access to a full range of amenities, David Kiloh, director of facilities and building services for student housing and hospitality services, pointed out.
“We have a 24-hour front desk, our games room, commons block lobby, bike storage, music practice rooms and workout space—and we also have a beautiful outdoor space with outdoor hammocks,” he said.
The residence is also uniquely situated in the heart of campus. It sits above the new UBC bus exchange and is steps from the UBC Aquatic Centre and Student Recreation Centre, while the AMS Nest and UBC Life Building are just around the corner.
That mix of nearby campus amenities played a large factor in the decision to test nano suites at The Exchange. “We feel that this location is a great location to trial this concept,” said Parr. “The student best suited to a unit like this is one who is very active on campus, who participates in extracurricular activities and who is quite social. They have their own private space they can call their own, but they can also quickly dash to the library or the Nest, or hang out in the coffee bar or jump on a bus and go downtown.”
That description fits Wong to a T. “I don’t plan to spend a lot of time in the room,” she said. “I just need a space to sleep and shower, and prepare some food. And I really like the location of being so close to the bus loop, so I can just come in and out of campus as I please. It’s really central, so I really feel like I’m part of a community.”
Exchange by the numbers