SFU renewal

An award winning renewal effort

The iconic SFU plaza project in Burnaby posed unique challenges
Friday, October 1, 2021

The SFU Plaza Renewal Project is a multi-phase extensive renovation and refreshment of the Academic Quadrangle and Convocation Mall areas of the iconic SFU Burnaby Campus, originally designed by Arthur Erikson in the 1960s.

The $55 million project consisted of a comprehensive replacement of the rooftop public plaza surfaces and sub-surface waterproofing assemblies, much of which were over occupied space.

Designed by Public Architecture and Communication, this project was an opportunity to improve the public realm at the campus including updates to surfaces, lighting, stairway finishes, railings, site furniture, and plantings.

The plaza serves as a public space and as a roof sheltering education spaces beneath. The Academic Quadrangle (AQ), at the centre of the campus, acts as the rooftop to many of the classrooms and other spaces below. Over the years, leaks had become a significant problem due to the degraded roofing membrane. Burnaby Mountain’s unique microclimate produces rapid, freeze-thaw cycles. This and inadequate drainage caused the original ceramic finishes to fail over the years.

To address the project requirements, Public selected a new permeable paving system with the replacement of existing clay tiles with Canadian granite.

Ledcor Construction undertook this challenging project. The extensive project involved the replacement of the waterproof membrane and plaza paving finishes as well as the addition of new features such as landscaping elements, furniture and new amenity canopies. In addition, the renewal respects the formal ceremonial nature of Convocation Mall while providing increased opportunities for day-to-day users to gather, linger, and connect informally.


Completed in 2019, Phase 1 included new granite tiles, a waterproof membrane, ramps for better accessibility, and new landscaping and furniture in the AQ 4000 level and the stairs and walkways around Convocation Mall.

Phase 2 included the renovation of the Convocation Mall, the fountain square, and the transportation centre. It required demolition and removal of the existing tile and roofing, as well as both Convocation Mall stages and the Fountain Square fountain.

Apex Granite & Tile supplied and installed granite tile on both drainable mortar and pedestal assemblies throughout the AQ. The company used the newest drainable mortar system called Romex. Romex is the first of its kind, a cement and epoxy-based product that allows water to drain through into the setting bed. The setting bed is made of small rocks 6-8mm which works as a filter for the water to make its way into the drainage system. Apex supplied and installed both these systems, giving a new modern look to the AQ area.

The four-year renewal project impacted most of the major outdoor circulation and social space of the university and required careful coordination within an active, fully-functioning campus. The project team also had to meet the tight deadline for completion before spring and fall ceremonies.

Other challenges included inclement weather, tie-in to existing structures and managing the impacts of COVID-19 (some delays with granite tiel and steel in 2020).

Both Ledcor and Apex were recognized with 2021 VRCA Awards of Excellence Silver Awards for this project.

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