Long-awaited Student Union Building has soft opening

Student space ready for return to campus in the fall

Kriti Monga / The Peak

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer

SFSS kicked off the soft-opening week of the Student Union Building (SUB) on August 23 by inviting small groups of people to gather in the ballroom on the top floor. This was followed by a guided tour of the building. The SUB offers space for services such as the SFSS Student Centre, Women’s Centre, and a nap room. It began construction in June 2016, and the building went through multiple delays. It was originally scheduled to open in 2018.

The first group to attend the soft-opening participated in Indigenous ceremonial practices led by Elders, followed by short speeches from SFSS board members including president Gabe Liosis. 

“This morning, we had Elder Margaret and Elder Shane do a blessing of the building and the people who work in this space as well,” said SFSS vice president, events and student affairs Jess Dela Cruz to The Peak. “We had that before any other guests came, before any of our SFU and Burnaby stakeholders came. That space we held just for them, as we are uninvited guests.”

Liosis addressed the fight for space in the SUB amongst student groups. Those who have advocated for themselves and have designated spots in the SUB include the CJSF Radio, Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance, Embark Sustainability, First Nations Students Association, the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group, and Students of Caribbean and African ancestry.

Liosis pointed to the struggles for permanent space in the SUB for various student groups, “There has been a long and tumultuous history around the space in this building and how it would get used,” said Liosis. “I want to acknowledge the people who have fought really hard, who have campaigned to have well-deserved space in this building.” 

Many of the SUB’s amenities and necessities are in place through student advocacy, such as gender-neutral washrooms, gas fireplaces around the building, a nap room, extra study spaces, 20 microwaves in the dining hall that connects to the Maggie Benson Building, and more. 

“Even while they were making this building there was a lot of student consultation,” said Dela Cruz. “One thing to look forward to is to have students in this space, so we know what they need to make it more accessible as we transition from remote learning, as we get back to being in-person.”

The SUB has been a decade long project with several delays. Part of the $65M student-funded Build SFU project, the new SUB offers 113,000 square feet of student space. Working with COVID-19 protocols, the building is open to the public following standard operating hours starting from August 30 with bookable rooms. The nap room is currently closed due to COVID-19.

“It’s [ . . . ] just exciting because we’ve completed it. There’s been an effort to create a Student Union Building since we started the SFSS in the mid-late 60s,” said Corbett Gildersleve, SFSS vice-president of internal and organizational development to The Peak.

Gildersleve confirmed the building has gone through an accessibility audit and met its target goal of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification, the second-highest rating in the LEED rating system. Although the building is finished, Gildersleve expressed openness to student consultation and continuous improvement on both the accessibility and sustainability of the building. 

He explained the building has the capacity to be improved, “There’s sections where we could add solar power and stuff like that if it’s viable.” 

Due to COVID-19, the SUB is only open for SFSS staff and administration, with no bookable room available. Students can find out more about the building, its services, and operating hours on the SFSS website

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