According to their website, “The new UBC Student Union Building will aim high: to empower, to advocate, to lead by example with ecological, social and financial sustainability. It will be accessible and diverse. It will be an inspirational, dignified space, at home in an exciting landscape” HBBH+BH is a partnership between HBBH and BH. HBBH is responsible for the Marine Drive Residences on Campus.

Marine Drive Residence. (I can totally see my apartment in this photo)

Marine Drive Residence. (I can totally see my apartment in this photo)

Social Media

Website/Facebook/Twitter/Pamphlet Side 1/Pamphlet Side 2

Their communication methods are pretty standard. The thing I like about their website is that because this team is a combination of two different firms, we have a website that is unique to our project. They’ve used this to their advantage; giving the students a taste of what it would be like to work with them. I definitely encourage you to check out their facebook page and also the website.


Their presentation discussed the different aspects that are important in order to make a student union building. HBBH+BH’s early preconceptions of our building are that it needs to be like a city.  There needs to be a main street, a building envelope, rooms and public space. The thing that I liked about this observation is that they highlighted the importance of the hierarchy of space. A space needs to be able to deal with small and large crowds, it needs to be a multi dimensional space and the legacy of the space needs to be preserved while we continue to look forward. HBBH+BH stressed the point that they will not build us a building that cannot be reused in 100 years and that a building should have systems that is easily reusable. The idea that there needs to be a harmony between artificial and natural systems in order to achieve optimum sustainability is something that was identified and yours truly definitely appreciated that.

Consultation and Communication

The idea from HBBH+BH that impressed me the most was the idea of a design cube in our current SUB. During the design phase, HBBH+BH would like to ideally set up a space in our concourse where the design team, and a full-time architect student can set up shop. HBBH+BH proposed this because they would like to fully immerse themselves in the flow and the dynamic of the SUB during the design process to give us the best building they can.

HBBH+BH's Proposed Design Cube

HBBH+BH's Proposed Design Cube

The Team

Everyone on the team seemed knowledgeable and engaged in the presentation. Every person had a defined role and can only help a project of this magnitude. The dynamic between the two principles was easy which made the presentation seem more like a conversation. The two principles seemed charismatic; this will definitely help engage the students who choose to be involved.


While I loved their presentation and they were definitely the best prepared, I worry that the slickness of the firm will take away from the actual project. I worry that this partnership will be more about the flash. I also think they are playing up the cheese a touch too much, it almost seems like they’re trying too hard. There seemed to be a lot of good ideas and a lot of them are perfectly feasible, I feel that the architects have under-estimated how much work it will take to get the level of student engagement they are hoping for.


With HBBH+BH, we would definitely be getting a different level of expertise in the area of building systems. They were the firm which seemed to focus the most on the different things they would put in our building to monitor and adjust our environmental impact. Their suggestion for a design cube in the SUB during the design period and also a green card system for students to keep track of their environmental impact are both amazing ideas; the latter really driving home the point that sustainability should be a social thing as well.


1 Comment so far

  1. Douglas Birkenshaw on April 12, 2010 8:07 am

    Thank you for the concise review, I am impressed by how well you captured, the not inconsiderable, number of ideas we presented. I am also impressed that we came off as both a little cheesy and too flashy, a difficult combination. I don’t think either Bruce or I have ever been called flashy but I can see our attempts at humor are a little cheesy. The point we were trying to convey is that the engagement with the students has to be enjoyable if it is to be effective. Bruce and I are committed to sustaining that engagement over the long haul. I also am not convinced that it will be that difficult, the presentations seem to be very well attended and we really liked the number of posts that people made on our informal comment sheets, you can already see some themes developing. We look forward to proving you wrong.
    Douglas Birkenshaw

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