Vol. 54, Issue 2 • Residential

Home away from home

Steel clad residence at UNBSJ is built with longevity and legacy in mind

Story: Julia Preston

Photography: Barrett Jackson Photography

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Nearly sixty years ago, the University of New Brunswick looked beyond its base in Fredericton and established a second campus in Saint John. For decades the Saint John site was modest. It developed a reputation as a centre for marine biology and as a commuter school for local students.

Twenty years ago, the university began to expand its operations along the Bay of Fundy. One of the primary goals was to become a campus of choice for students—including drawing applications from outside the city, outside the province, the Maritimes and the country.

Today, the University of New Brunswick Saint John campus (UNBSJ) has a population of approximately 2,200 students and offers programs in all disciplines across arts, business and science. As the campus has grown, so has the demand for services. The Barry and Flora Beckett Residence, the latest development in the evolution of UNBSJ, has been designed to meet both current needs and the anticipated future growth of the campus.

“We were very much in a situation where we had long wait lists for residences. We were 100 percent occupied,” says Kevin Simpson, director of Facilities Management and Campus Development for the Saint John Campus. The new residence added 105 beds and in doing so, helped the university to create a “residence culture” for students.

“It’s our aspiration to grow. With growth comes more residence buildings… for people to really feel the university.” — Kevin Simpson, UNBSJ

The university experience is about much more than academic programs. Roommates, clubs, extra-curricular activities and life beyond lecture halls often have the biggest impact on students. Each university’s unique culture attracts like-minded people and provides a foundation for their development.

The Beckett Residence helps UNBSJ “welcome students… who will not only be enriched themselves but contribute to the richness of the campus in return,” said Barry Becket, a UNB alumnus, long-time professor, registrar emeritus, and a key figure in establishing the Saint John campus.

The Beckett Residence sits on a quad with the Dunn and Mackay residences. The building is 38,000 square feet and six storeys high. It connects to the other residences via an 83-foot steel pedway.

UNBSJ is known for its tunnels that allow students to “leave their room in their sock feet and/or their slippers and… get to class,” explains Simpson. In constructing the new residence, the university wanted to maintain that level of accessibility. The pedway between the Beckett and Mackay residences enables students to easily get from building to building and connects them to the rest of the campus.

The pedway was constructed of insulated metal panels (IMPs) manufactured by Kingspan. The prefinished panels are composed of a steel outer skin over a ridged stone-fibre mineral insulation core. IMPs are known for their superior thermal properties, design flexibility and fast installation time. On the exterior the panels are coated in a siliconized modified polyester resin, which will not weather, chalk or fade.

From the pedway to the residence itself, complementing the existing buildings was an important consideration. The Dunn and Mackay residences are clad with shingled exteriors in various shades of grey. “We wanted to make sure that the building fit really well with the other two residence buildings. But we also wanted to bring some type of life to the building in regards to colour,” explains Simpson.

That led the design team to select accents of red and black, the university’s official colours. Just like the sweatshirts students wear to class, the on-brand colour palette is a further opportunity to celebrate the UNBSJ spirit.

The majority of the building employs Agway Metal's 7/8” corrugated cladding in a light grey that echoes that of the other residences. Black horizontal panels (HF-6) are used along the bottom of the building to ground the structure. The designers also used black to delineate the entrance to the building. Here the HF-6 stretches the full height of the building and is paired with an adjacent wall covered in shiny red aluminum panels.

The HF-6 profile, part of Agway’s hidden fastener system, provides a 12” wide panel with a 6” return. The cladding delivers ultra sleek lines and a very clean, modern profile, a nod to the university’s focus on the future.

“One of the biggest aspects for us when we were constructing the building… was finding materials that would have longevity but at the same time very low maintenance requirements,” says Simpson. That led to the selection of steel cladding from Agway Metals and insulated metal panels from Kingspan.

The modern aesthetic of the steel cladding matches the university’s focus on the future.

UNBSJ’s ambitions are long-term. Focusing on durable, sustainable construction ensures that the residence supports the university’s goals for future expansion.

At the same time, the university is growing thoughtfully, developing its own distinct post-secondary identity centred on collaboration and connection.

This sense of collaboration is woven into many programs at UNBSJ. Students embrace this cross academic culture throughout their education and build connections through their residence experience. When the new Beckett Residence opened, Petra Hauf, UNB vice-president Saint John, said, “We are committed to making this campus a more inclusive and comfortable place to live and study and this new residence is one way for this to happen.”

“The collaborative approach… really speaks volumes to what UNBSJ is and does on a regular basis,” says Simpson.
“It’s our aspiration to grow. With growth comes more residence buildings and things [that allow] people to really feel the university, feel the culture that you’re trying to establish and create.”

Project Specifications


D. M. White Architecture Inc. // dmwhite.ca


Maxim Construction Inc. // maximconstruction.ca


CBCL (civil) cbcl.ca

MCW (mechanical) // mcw.com

Tek Consultants (electrical) // tekcon.ca

Lawrence RA Engineering (structural) // lawrenceengineering.ca


O’Brien Roofing // 506-634-0049


Agway Metals Inc. // agwaymetals.com

Kingspan // kingspan.com


HF-6 Black (QC 28262), 7/8” Corrugated Regent Grey (QC 28730), AR-38 Black

Kingspan Insulated Panels, Weather XL – Siliconized Modified Polyester, Driftwood