University of Victoria (UVic) students are benefiting from more on-campus housing with the first of two new student-housing buildings opening, ready for students to move in and call the spaces home.
UVic’s newest student housing and dining building will provide an additional 398 beds for students starting this month, meaning more students will have homes on campus and will not have to rent in the local market. It brings the number of on-campus student beds to more than 2,500, which is the most in UVic’s history.
“Our government continues to work to remove the barriers British Columbians are facing. Victoria has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the province, making it challenging for post-secondary students to secure housing,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “Between 2001 and 2016, the old government only built 130 student beds. The outcome was many students were pushed into local rental markets in communities like Victoria. Our government is making different choices, working with colleges and universities to build 8,000 student housing beds across B.C. to make post-secondary education more affordable for students and provide relief for local renters.”
The new building will primarily benefit first-year university students. UVic has a first-year on-campus housing guarantee to help new students acclimate to campus life through living in residence.
In addition to student housing, the eight-storey building includes a two-storey, 715-seat dining hall equipped to serve 10,000 meals a day to students, staff, faculty and the public. The electrified commercial kitchen will set a global precedent in energy efficiency. As the first passive house kitchen of its scale worldwide, the Cove Dining Hall will consume an average of 87% less energy than other industrial kitchens of a similar size.
“With assistance from the Province, we are working to remove barriers and make higher education accessible for more students at UVic,” said Kevin Hall, president, University of Victoria. “On-campus housing helps students transition to post-secondary studies and creates a sense of community and connection. These new student-housing buildings will also help to alleviate pressure on the rental market in the surrounding community.”
UVic was the second post-secondary institution to access the BC Student Housing Loan Program, a $450-million initiative launched in 2018 to make housing more affordable and available for students. The program gives a new housing funding tool to post-secondary institutions to borrow directly from the Province to help finance new on-campus student-housing units, which was not permitted before 2017.
“Having on-campus housing eases stress and allows students like me to fully enjoy and immerse themselves in the post-secondary experience,” said Izzy Adachi, political science student and board director, University of Victoria Students’ Society. “Students need a secure, safe space to call home, so they can focus on their studies without worry or distraction.”
The first student housing building has been built and completed on schedule. The second student housing building will be complete a year ahead of schedule in summer 2023 and will provide an additional 385 beds. In total, the two buildings will add 621 new beds to the campus for students, increasing affordable on-campus housing by 25%. The $229.2-million project received $127.9 million in provincial funding.
Both student-housing buildings will be constructed using natural products, including stone and wood, consistent with the Province’s CleanBC plan. Wood is incorporated into the building designs through mass-timber structural elements in the first building and wood finishes in the second building. Mass timber is engineered for strength by fastening together layers of smaller-dimension wood with glue, dowels or nails. Mass timber can match or exceed the structural performance of concrete and steel while reducing carbon emissions by as much as 45%.
Both buildings have been designed and constructed to achieve Passive House and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) V4 Gold certification, two of most rigorous global building standards for sustainability and energy efficiency. This means reduced energy, operating and maintenance costs, and lower carbon emissions, which are critical for a clean-growth future.
Funding for new student housing is part of StrongerBC’s Future Ready Skills Plan. Future Ready is making education and training more accessible, affordable and relevant to help businesses grow and to prepare British Columbians for the jobs of tomorrow.
A backgrounder follows.