Trinity Western University

Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible

55,378 sq ft 90 BUILDING MODULES 5 STOREYS
THE CHALLENGE
THE CHALLENGE

Trinity Western University needed to expand student housing, but timing was tight. With just 9 months from contract signing to students moving in, Trinity turned to Metric Modular to ensure the timeline would be met.

When it comes to competing for the best students, post-secondary schools in Metro Vancouver know housing is a key component.

And a key stumbling block.

With the region’s sky-high housing prices and record-low vacancy rates, schools are working hard to develop their own housing solutions in order to attract students.

Trinity Western University (TWU) – located in Langley, B.C. – until recently hadn’t built any new student housing in 20 years, but administrators knew it had to expand its on-campus housing stock.

Faced with this urgent need, the school looked to our creative team at Metric Modular to develop a customized solution that would satisfy students, be built at a reasonable cost and overcome several unavoidable challenges.

At Metric Modular, we’re on the cutting edge of modular housing, a type of construction in which the building blocks are crafted in “truck-sized pieces” in a climate-controlled factory, shipped to a site and then assembled to create an entire building. Depending on what the client wants, everything is built before shipping. Our talented in-house millworkers create all the cabinetry and countertops. Sprinkler systems and plumbing are installed, as well as all fixtures, electrical and flooring. And it’s all created in a factory setting unaffected by unpredictable weather that can plague other construction projects.

But way before the pieces are ever assembled – before the ink has even hit the blueprints – our team does one crucial thing.

We listen.

Phase 1: planning & design
Phase 1: planning & design
Our Upfront Planning Process consults extensively with clients to develop a detailed design plan that meets their needs.

What TWU needed was a five-storey building containing 218 beds that would provide housing and study areas for students. The first step undertaken by our business development and architectural group was our design team meeting with school representatives to come up with a look that would fit in with the other school housing buildings.

Senior Architectural Designer at Metric, Steve Ashcroft, came up with a 90 module, forward-thinking design that spoke to the new direction the university wanted to turn to attract new students. The design includes features that would offer students more than just “a place to sleep.”

By taking into consideration the feedback from TWU students, the new space will reflect their style of living and learning. It was this initial design that secured the direction for the project.

Calvin Benson
Calvin Benson
Calvin Benson

Then the production design team took over to bring the project to life by overcoming logistical and design challenges in collaboration with TWU.

Calvin Benson, Senior Manager, Design & Estimating, has been with us at Metric Modular for 28 years, but found himself in new territory on the TWU project. He believes it’s the only five-storey wood modular building ever built in Canada.

“This project really got the creative juices going,” Calvin says.

At Metric Modular, we specialize in de-risking projects for our clients through extensive planning and expert execution.

The TWU project, however, put our designers to the test through its biggest obstacle – time. We were awarded the project in December 2017, but the building and suites need to be ready for students to move into by September 1, 2018.

For Calvin, modular housing is perfect for such a time crunch because different stages of construction can be done simultaneously. Site preparation can be completed while each living unit is being constructed at the factory.

“In modular construction, we’re building the building while the foundation is also being poured. From my point of view, the TWU timeline would have been impossible to achieve using traditional construction methods.”

–  Calvin Benson

Steve Ashcroft
Steve Ashcroft

Steve Ashcroft

 

Calvin and Metric Senior Designer Christie Bokor spent months with TWU representatives perfecting the designs, while maintaining the unique form and character Steve had envisioned, so they would meet the unique needs and demands of college students.

Christie Bokor
Christie Bokor

Christie Bokor

Christie says she learned a lot about how students live and the types of finishings that are well-suited to young people – many of whom are living on their own for the first time. She consulted with TWU’s maintenance department to see what items are regularly replaced – such as locks and plumbing fixtures – and designed the new housing so these commonly replaced items will match the school’s other dormitories. That way the school doesn’t have to buy different items for different buildings.

“The living areas were designed to be easily fixable”

– Christie Bokor

Christie inspected other TWU housing to see what things work and don’t work. What she noticed during a Christmas visit was how students had strung holiday lights by hanging extension cords because of a lack of plug-ins. She altered the design so the new units have a special plug-in high up on a wall.

HEAR FROM THE TEAM

Seemingly minor details can cause major headaches without proper planning.

De-risking Philosophy
De-risking Philosophy

“We went back to the drawing board,” Calvin says.

“But we realize that every design needs to be based on the clients’ needs, not ours.”

TWU presented the results of a survey that asked students what they didn’t like about the current student housing. One problem identified was a lack of study areas outside of the housing units. Christie and the team then “tweaked” the design to add well-lit dedicated study areas on each floor, plus a “hangout” area for students who want to get out of their rooms for a while.

TWU also came to the designers later in the process because the building’s tight location would make it difficult for garbage/recycling collection. Calvin and Christie adjusted the angle of the building several times to fix this problem, as well as ensure fire trucks would be able to easily maneuver.

It’s all part of our de-risking philosophy. Every detail is planned out months in advance based on a client’s needs. Every housing unit is built in stages in a different part of the factory, with each stage checked and re-checked to ensure it’s done right.

TWU students will likely never realize the months of detailed planning that went into their new homes – they’ll be too busy cramming for finals. But for Steve, Christie and Calvin, designing such a unique building in such a short time has had its own rewards.

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