Ponderosa Commons, University of British Columbia

An innovative mixed-use residential academic hub

Ponderosa Commons is the first in a series of high-density, mixed-use Hubs at the University of British Columbia. The concept integrates student housing, academic and social space, and retail services to produce a vibrant, engaging 24/7 precinct on UBC’s large commuter campus.

Ponderosa Commons Phase 1 comprises two buildings on adjacent sites, and Phase 2 is located across University Boulevard to form a central campus green space. The 600,000 s.f. LEED Gold project was designed and delivered in two phases under unusually tight time and budget constraints.

Phase 1 East and West consists of two large 15 and 20-storey buildings housing the Audain Art Centre and Geofluvial Lab respectively. These academic facilities are integrated with student residences, learning commons, study rooms, fitness facilities, a popular pizzeria, and the Collegium, a home-away-from-home for commuter students.

To achieve design quality within the tight budget ($208/s.f. for the 306,400 s.f. program) KPMB developed a precast insulated panel system that references the modernist white brick campus.

Raw materials such as concrete, rough-sawn western red cedar, and graphics and colour animate the architecture and meet the budget constraints. The curtain wall cladding of the Audain Art Centre, integrates colours inspired by the mixed media works of Ian Wallace, a former professor of art at UBC and an influential artist internationally recognized for his role in the development of photographic and conceptual art practice of artists and former students such as Jeff Wall and Stan Douglas.

Phase 2 was designed to meet a construction budget of $196/s.f., and comprises 510 beds and amenities including Harvest, UBC’s favourite healthy food market, multi-purpose event/gathering space, classrooms, seminar rooms and offices for the Faculty of Education. The project was brought in under budget at $185/s.f. after completion.


University of British Columbia, Vancouver


UBC Properties Trust


KPMB Architects in joint venture with HCMA Architecture + Design


2016 (Phase 2); 2013 (Phase 1)


292,658 ft² / 27,189 m² (Phase 2); 192,512 ft² / 17,885 m² (Phase 1 West); 113,893 ft² / 10,581 m² (Phase 1 East)

project type

Education, Mixed-Use, Residential, Tower

Full Project Credits
Ponderosa Commons - Cedar House - Ponderosa Commons - Oak House

Ponderosa Commons, named after the majestic Ponderosa Pine around which it was planned, was designed to contribute to realizing UBC’s mission to be the greenest university campus in North America. The design achieves a very high LEED Gold in Phase 1 and in Phase 2 an unprecedented 105 kWh/s.m. for a mixed use building.

Ponderosa Commons - Cedar House - Ponderosa Commons - (Arbutus House)

Phase 2 atrium

Ponderosa Commons - Spruce House - Ponderosa Commons - Cedar House

Phase 1 East: Master level studio with view of Phase 2 across University Blvd.

Design - Architecture

Phase 1 East: Bachelor level studios

View from the 10th Floor Lounge in Phase 2: The overall design was oriented to celebrate magnificent views of the Strait of Georgia and Rocky Mountains, reminding students, faculty and visitors of their privileged place on the lands of Musqueam Indian Band.