Unique to North America, the new Health Sciences building on the VIU campus in Nanaimo, is heated and cooled with geothermal heat.

Vancouver Island University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ralph Nilson said the 2 point 4 million dollar energy system uses the water that’s trapped underground in the abandoned Wakesiah mine.

Nilson said eventually, there will be an area in the pumphouse on 5th avenue where students, and members of the public can learn more about the system.

He said there will be some screens where you will be able to see what kind of energy is being saved but there will also be some storylines so that people can understand better how the system works.

Nilson said it’s interesting because the scores of workers who toiled in the Wakesiah coal mine in the early 1900s created the infrastructure needed to heat and cool buildings at the University in the most sustainable way a century later.

In the meantime, the finishing touches might have to be done on the new Health Science Centre on the Nanaimo VIU campus, but it’s all systems go for students when they come back to campus this week.

Nilson said, at almost 40 million dollars, it was the largest capital project ever undertaken by the University and students will enjoy the latest high end learning equipment and a new chemistry major program.

Nilson said the trades precinct is done now with new stalls for training on heavy equipment, including equipment that runs on CNG and LNG.

The marine centre has moved to an expanded space, there’s a brand new carpentry facility and there’s a new Trades Innovation Centre on line.

As far as programming, Nilson said VIU is also offering a new math degree.

On the Cowichan Campus, Nilson said, they are bursting at the seams.

He said the building was built five years ago and already they are stacking everybody up so they’ll be looking at how they can create more space there.

He said the demand for education in the Valley is way up and VIU is working with Cowichan Tribes and the School District to determine the best way to go forward.