BC’s Vancouver Island University Planning to Build 9-Story Mass Timber Student Housing Project

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is planning to build an $87.8 million (CAD), nine-story mass timber student housing project that, when complete in the autumn of 2025, will include 266 student beds, a common area, and a new dining hall at its Nanaimo, BC, campus. The project is not only a first for VI but another step forward for BC’s Wood First Policy.

Vancouver architecture firm Perkins & Will created designs for the business case submission, according to VIU’s associate vice-president of facilities and ancillary services Richard Lewis. Because the process in its early stages, no project architect has been selected as of yet.

Challenges inherent to building on the VIU campus include dealing with a steeply sloped site, since the campus is located on elevated ground and proximity other operating facilities and students.

Besides mass timber’s contribution to sustainability, the project will be unique in its use of a water geo-exchange system that taps into the old Wakeisah mine, which resides under the campus. The mine was abandoned in the 1920’s and has since been flooded with ground water, but in 2018, the university built the first phase of the exchange system that taps into the geothermal energy. This will heat and cool the new building while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation, praised the project for it providing both vital student housing and spearheading sustainability through the use of mass timber.

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