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UFV contracts to move forward with plans for digital hub

Stantec, a professional services company, offers expertise in engineering, architecture, and project management as well as in other areas of consultation. The Digital Hub is one of the major components of the university’s master plan, as well as their five-year capital plan.

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UFV has contracted Stantec to assist with the pre-planning of the university’s number one capital project, the Digital Hub.

Stantec, a professional services company, offers expertise in engineering, architecture, and project management as well as in other areas of consultation. The Digital Hub is one of the major components of the university’s master plan, as well as their five-year capital plan.

The Digital Hub will be a sophisticated digital facility with labs and active learning spaces. It will also create the new home for UFV’s theatre program with a black box theatre. The theatre program is set to come to Abbotsford in September 2017 and UFV’s Chilliwack North campus, which currently only houses the theatre program, will continue to be marketed as per their agreement with the provincial government.

The Digital Hub is purported to align with the province’s BCTECH strategy. It will be designed to teach students and prepare them for jobs in B.C.’s tech sector.

“We see the Digital Hub project as extremely important to our future. Especially because our own organizational innovation involves creating a culture of innovation,” said Craig Toews, executive director of campus planning and resource management at UFV.

The new space will also facilitate newly approved degrees, bachelor of media arts degree and bachelor of education with a secondary school option.

The objective of the Digital Hub is to host the infrastructure for interactive teaching and performance-based learning. It will all be held together with a modern digital framework.

According to UFV’s capital plan, “The Digital HUB will create an inviting and architecturally stimulating representation of the university, a place that stimulates innovation and collaboration with a true entrepreneurial spirit.”

“It’s going to be one of our most sophisticated buildings to date,” said Toews.

Stantec was chosen through a competitive bidding process because of their expertise in related areas and a strong resume. They’ve also worked with UFV before, helping to build the CEP campus in Chilliwack.

In order for the Digital Hub to be built, a number of processes must align. Stantec will help UFV lay out the groundwork and meet the requirements to get government and the Ministry of Advanced Education’s approval on the project as well as locate capital funding. Stantec will build a business case for the project.

The business case will include important components to appeal to donors for funding and to inspire the City of Abbotsford as they develop their innovation platform together.

Stantec will work with UFV to answer questions inherent to the pre-planning phase of the project by conducting a feasibility study, asking who and what activities are going to go in the building, considering building design, and looking at where it will be sited on the campus.

“When we have that information, we can do some order of magnitude costing, we can develop some renderings to help the advancement team, and develop partnerships and inspire others to join the project and perhaps donate,” said Toews.

The pre-planning phase sets up the project so that it can be presented as a package. The contract with Stantec does not however include architectural design or construction — these processes will only take place after pre-planning is complete, approval has been met, and funding is in place.  

Although UFV has established their own vision for the Digital Hub, part of what Stantec will do is facilitate forums and consult with focus groups to solidify what components are most crucial to the project. These groups will include external groups such as the City of Abbotsford, The Reach Gallery Museum, and student groups.

The consultation period for Stantec and UFV is expected to be between eight and 10 months long.

“Hopefully somewhere in the fall we’ll have a really crisp and compelling plan that we can share with the community of what we’re envisioning with this,” said Toews.

The final completion date for the space will depend on when funding is received. Assuming funding requirements are met, architecture design and construction could be about a three-year-long process.

“So if you have funding in place following that, all in total it’s about a four-year window optimistically,” said Toews.

To fund the project, UFV hopes to partner with local and provincial governments for financial support. The UFV capital plan also says that the Digital Hub may house commercial enterprises and / or lease out professional and retail spaces to offset costs.

UFV has already begun fundraising with the goal of $10 million but the project will largely be dependant on whether it will receive funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education.

“It touches just about everything at UFV, that’s why it’s so integral to our future,” Toews said.

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