Innovative Approach Marries Sustainability with Structural Ingenuity
UBC Okanagan is redefining urban infrastructure and sustainable construction practices in Kelowna with the construction of a state-of-the-art underground parking garage for UBCO Downtown.
This four-storey, below-grade parkade—built to serve the facility and reduce parking impacts in the area—will set a record as the deepest parkade in the Kelowna area.
It employs an innovative ‘tanked’ design that will use a special waterproof concrete mix to accommodate the city’s high water table. Unlike conventional construction where water accumulation around the foundation is drained or pumped away—potentially carrying away vital sediments and destabilizing surrounding soils—the tanked design keeps the water and soils in place, ensuring hydrostatic pressure balance.
“UBCO’s downtown expansion is about far more than just physical growth. It’s about integrating our institution’s commitment to research, innovation and education into the heart of Kelowna’s urban landscape,” says Dr. Lesley Cormack, Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “This tanked parking garage is a prime example of our innovative approach, demonstrating how we are rising to meet the unique challenges our city presents.”
In line with UBCO’s commitment to sustainability, the fill extracted during the parkade’s construction will be transported to the main campus, providing necessary and high-quality material for slope stabilization and aiding in the area’s future utilization—all while minimizing waste generation and saving on future trucking emissions.
“This move exemplifies our dedication to minimizing waste and optimizing resources during the construction process,” adds Rob Einarson, Associate Vice-President for Finance and Operations at UBC Okanagan. “It’s a testament to our commitment to sustainability and our responsibility as a steward of the environment.”
He also notes the underground parking is one of several sustainability aspects considered with the downtown project.
For example, the inclusion of housing within the building will offer convenient accommodation options for students and faculty, potentially eliminating or reducing the need for daily commutes. UBCO Downtown’s proximity to cycling lanes and direct mass transit routes will further encourage sustainable transportation choices.
Einarson adds that by pushing the parking below grade, UBCO Downtown will be able to maintain a welcoming and accessible street front, with a planned coffee shop and large, open-air seating area.
With construction for UBCO Downtown already under way, the university expects doors to open to the new building in 2027.
“UBCO Downtown is set to become a premier location for vital and community-driven health programs such as nursing, social work, and health and exercise sciences,” says Dr. Cormack. “This expansion will create a cutting-edge hub for education, research and training, addressing the increasing demand for healthcare professionals in the local and provincial communities, involving up to 1,000 students from various disciplines in the downtown core.”
For more information on UBCO Downtown visit: ok.ubc.ca/downtown.
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