UBC Students Fight to Save Testing Facility
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Mechanical engineering students at the University of B.C. are petitioning to stop the university from demolishing a unique vessel-testing facility to replace it with condominiums.
The fight brewing over the fate of the 30-year-old tow-tanks is the latest controversy in UBC's aggressive plan to make millions for its endowment fund by developing its prime Point Grey real estate.
UBC has come under fire before for developing its campus, including the introduction of shops to its academic district and the construction of student residences that critics said overlooked nudists at Wreck Beach.
UBC's first development venture, Hampton Place, netted $116m for UBC's endowment fund, which generates interest used for scholarships and academics.
The BC Ocean Engineering Centre, at the south end of campus, consists of two 67-m-long tanks of water and a carriage system that pulls vessels through the tanks to test their resistance in the water.
The tanks are used regularly in lab classes for third-year mechanical engineering students, and are used extensively by some 30 naval architecture students. Graduate students also test technology that generates electricity from tidal forces at the tow-tanks.
B.C.'s marine industry is also fighting to save the tanks, which have tested several B.C. Ferries and last week were used to test a state-of-the-art Nike swimsuit for use in the summer Olympics.
Research recently ceased in the building. The main tenant's lease expires November 30. The building is slated for demolition in December.
But the associate vice-president of treasury at UBC told The Sun that there is little use academically for the building, and indicated that over a five to 10 year period, the university's core group of expertise in ocean engineering has dwindled, through retirements and decisions by the university to focus on other fields of applied science.
But Dan McGreer of Aker Yards Marine naval architects, who is part of an industry group hoping to save the tanks, said important research was being done in the facility until it closed its doors. [Source: www.canada.com]