Next steps at UBC and what it means for us in Facilities

I hope that you and your loved ones continue to stay healthy and positive. It’s great to see that the COVID-19 curve is flattening in BC and we’ll soon be able to begin a careful easing of restrictions. I know that we’re all eagerly anticipating our next steps at UBC, so I want to highlight some recent updates from the university, and what it means for us in the Facilities group.
  1. Gradual Resumption of Research — A phased resumption of research activities on-campus is planned to start at the beginning of June and continue over the summer. This will be limited to research that requires on-campus resources and cannot be conducted remotely. It’s likely to begin with 20-30 per cent of research activity resuming on campus and increase to 60 per cent by early fall if all goes well. The Facilities operations teams will soon begin ramping up custodial and trades staffing on-campus to ensure our re-opening buildings are properly cleaned, operated and maintained to provide a safe environment. Municipal services activities will also be ramping up to ensure that the public realm is also safe for increased activity. The majority of faculty and administrative staff will need to continue to work remotely wherever possible, so we’re not all going to be able to come back to the office. However, we will endeavor to create scheduling plans to allow all of us to have some on-campus work time. These plans will need to be reviewed and approved by the Executive.
  2. Online Classes in the Fall Term — The President has announced that during fall 2020, UBC will primarily offer our larger classes online. We don’t have full details at this point, but selected smaller classes, adhering to physical distancing and other public health requirements, may be conducted in person.We expect that some students will be offered opportunities to live in student housing. Combined with increased research activity, this will mean an expanded on-campus population and associated need for Facilities operations and maintenance services.
  3. Safe Operational Practices — I want to emphasize that health and safety remain our top priorities as we ramp up on-campus staffing. Each Facilities department is working with Safety & Risk Services to prepare careful plans and procedures, consistent with public health and WorkSafeBC requirements, to ensure the safety of our staff and the campus community. Restarting campus could be an iterative process — we might need to go back to our curtailment measures if the situation changes.As individuals, we’ll need to continue with physical distancing and careful personal hygiene practices, and ensure that we don’t come to work on-campus if we’re feeling ill.
  4. On-going Projects — In addition to the significant planning effort to resume research, I’m pleased to see the excellent work on the Workday and Planon implementations, including the extensive information sessions for staff held over recent weeks, and on our current capital projects.While a prudent step has been taken to temporarily delay start of construction on two large projects (Brock Commons Phase 2 and TEF4) until the financial situation is clearer, planning and design work continues on a number of other priority projects (Gateway Building, School of Biomedical Engineering Building, New Recreation Facility) and construction is moving forward on key routine capital projects, including the MacLeod Building renewal.It was also nice to see UBC recognized again in the Times Higher Education Impact rankings — #7 overall and #1 for climate action — due in no small part to the innovative work of our team. Our E3 platinum fleet rating is one great example. There is life beyond COVID-19!

Thank you all for sticking together though this challenge. The camaraderie and connection within and among the Facilities teams have been exceptional (as I’ve seen on Zoom!). Please keep up the positive momentum….. and enjoy a safe and happy Victoria Day long weekend!


John Metras,
Associate Vice-President, Facilities