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UBC law moves into its new digs

|Written By Jean Sorensen
UBC law moves into its new digs
Allard Hall, UBC''s new Faculty of Law building, is now open. Photo: University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia’s new $56-million Faculty of Law building Allard Hall, which opens today, is the first new law building in Canada built from the ground up in 30 years.

It features a flexible design that allows for multiple uses of the facilities. “It was a design feature that we strove for,” said UBC law dean Mary Anne Bobinski. “Our old concrete structure was very inflexible and we tried to create in the new building a flexibility so we could use the building in different ways both now and in the future.”

The new building, aiming to achieve a LEED Gold certification, was built from recycled steel and environmentally friendly fly-ash concrete, as well using non-toxic paints, adhesives, and materials. It will provide classrooms that are 20-per-cent larger than those in the old law school, accommodating approximately 600 students and 100 post-graduate students. The new building has five floors, plus a partial half-basement. The floors stress an open-area design and designated classrooms can seat up to 100 students. UBC’s law faculty of 45 will be housed in the new structure, as well as research students.

The building was named Allard Hall in honour of UBC graduate Peter Allard, a Vancouver businessman, former lawyer, and principal at Peterco Holdings Ltd., who in July contributed $11.86 million to the faculty — one of the largest donations to a law school in Canadian history. Of the donation, $9.83 million will go towards the new building.

The new structure will operate as a law library, teaching facility, research lab, and meeting space for community outreach programs such as legal aid and a venue for larger events. Two of the building’s key features are compacting library shelving, which fold like an accordion when not in use and hold the 225,000 volumes in the law school’s collection, plus a three-storey forum located in the centre of the building, which also features retractable seating to serve as the auditorium, a moot court, or an informal gathering space for students, faculty, and alumni.

The 13,191-square metre building’s design is a joint venture between two architectural firms, Diamond and Schmitt Architects of Toronto and CEI Architecture Planning Interiors of Vancouver. Read Jones Christoffersen Consulting Engineers provided structural engineering, while the general contractor was ITC Construction Group.

“LEED gold is being targeted,” said Diamond and Schmitt’s Giuseppe Mandarino. He said one of the building’s strong features is the abundance of natural lighting. Large glass windows complement the interior’s open-area design. Overall, the structure is estimated to achieve 50- to 60-per-cent energy savings. Other green features expected to earn LEED points include shower facilities to encourage bicycle commuters plus a construction waste-management product to recycle materials.

Mandarino said one of the difficulties with the project was the “tight site” as the new structure was built next to the existing law library building. A portion of the old structure was demolished to fit the new building on the site.

Bobinski said one of the features of the new building is the ability — both in terms of venue and technology — to link events and speakers to other venues not just throughout B.C. but “anywhere in the world.”

You can see what’s going on at the new UBC law building via its webcam.

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