June 2016

The Nest Wins Gold

by Peter Kenter Oct 5, 2016

Journal of Commerce

Photo Courtesy of UBC

UBC's Student Union Building "The Nest" has earned a Vancouver Regional Construction Association gold award in the General Contractor over $45 million category.

When Bird Construction Group began work on the University of British Columbia's (UBC) student union building it didn't have a name. A student contest designed to christen the building came up with The Nest, and that's just fine with Duane Ferreira, project manager at Bird. The Nest at UBC provides inspiring space for students "Originally we referred to it only as the student union building, but we joked about it being named Bird's Nest once we found out," he says.

"But the name fits the goals that we were trying to achieve. The old building was a dark and dingy place. The new one is a world-class building with a lot of architectural details and vision that were combined to create a comfortable, open, bright and inviting environment that will attract and inspire students."

The construction management project combined some demolition and renovation of the old building with construction of the new facility.

Bird's partners on the project included JSV Architectural Veneering & Millwork Inc., Wesbridge Steelworks Limited and Structurlam Products LP.

The four-storey building offers more than 250,000 square feet of space and features eight eateries, shops and services, multi-purpose rooms, study lounges, a daycare service, a three-storey climbing wall, a presentation theatre and a dance studio.

The building's centrepiece is the inspiration for its name - an exposed lounge suspended in the centre of the atrium, supported by three slender steel columns.

"The detail work on this feature was incredibly intricate," says Ferreira.

"We've never seen anything like it before and we may not see anything like it any time soon. Even cladding it with wood slats was a complex undertaking. The exact measurements and degree of intricacy that had to go into that millwork required a lot of time and effort. I went to the millwork shop to see it in progress and it looked just like they were building a boat."

The building's Great Hall also required significant attention to detail. The hall is supported by a cantilevered steel structure in the form of a three-part truss.

"It was 220 tonnes of steel in total, just in that truss system," says Ferreira. "It was so big that it couldn't be transported to the site assembled - it had to be assembled on site, so there was significant coordination required for that steel to be lifted into place and installed. There was also a lot of detailing, now hidden, that went into that steel."

Another innovative feature is the floating stairs installed throughout the building, which are supported by embeds, including 40-foot-long hollow structural section beams.

Boomerang-shaped glulam beams and a saw-toothed roof of glulam trusses and cross-laminated timber panels tie the structure thematically to the natural environment outside.

The Nest is targeted for LEED platinum certification and boasts the use of 83 per cent recycled steel. Other LEED-inspired features include solar-powered cooling, solar water heaters and an in-vessel composting facility. A rooftop garden of almost 11,000 square feet produces vegetables for in-house consumption.

The building was completed over the space of 33 months, but Bird continues to work at UBC alongside the completed facility. That's allowed Ferreira the luxury of visiting The Nest to see it used by the students for whom it was designed and built.

"It's not physically in the centre of the campus, but it feels like the social hub of the university," he says.

"Watching the students interact demonstrates that the building achieves what we were trying to achieve-bringing the outdoors indoors and creating an inviting space that brings students together."