Computer Science building still in progress

A  new building could begin construction on campus as early as February–but it’s not the MacEwan Hall expansion.

Pending Board of Governors approval, construction will begin on a new Information and Communications Technology building to house the expanded Computer Science and Computer and Electrical Engineering departments. Funding from the Alberta government’s Access program will create new programs to bring 2,000 new students to campus in the next few years.

Of the $32.5 million building, $23 million will come from Access funding, and the university will provide the rest. The financial plan will be presented at the Feb. 4 BoG meeting. If approval is gained, construction could begin as early as Feb. 5. The building must be complete by Fall 2001.

"It will have faculty offices, administration space, research lab areas, computer labs, modelling labs and software labs," said Director of Campus Planning Barry Kowalsky.

Students are optimistic about the new building.

"Nicer facilities always makes you feel more important," said General Studies student Kelly Newton. "If you’re working into a new place, and it’s specifically for your faculty, there’s positive morale."

Six new classroom spaces are planned, with seating for up to 500 students. Student lounge and study space, lab space and department and faculty offices will fill out the rest of the building. The building will have various "touch-down" spaces where students can plug their laptops into the campus ethernet.

"It will also provide an all-weather link between Engineering and Earth Sciences," said Kowalsky. "Which is something the Engineering students don’t currently enjoy."

Construction will take 18-20 months, possibly coinciding with work on the proposed MacEwan Student Centre expansion. Construction on both would take place in the same area, which could cause considerable disturbances.

"We have a Mobilization Plan," said Kowalsky. "A document to tell people which doors will be unavailable, etc."

Plans have been made for alternate handicapped parking, and a new entrance to Earth Sciences, but pathways in the area will be unavailable.

While the new building moves a certain number of students out of the overcrowded Engineering building, it is primarily space for the new program.

However, the university is working on a development plan to address long-term growth. The university has seen a two per cent per year population increase over the last 10 years.

"That doesn’t sound like a lot," said Kowalsky. "But every year that comes to another four or five hundred students showing up and needing space and services."

This overcrowding is difficult for students.

"It’s really difficult for TA students to make sure that each student gets adequate attention," said Physics Graduate Student Parminder Basran.

Trends indicate population increases will continue and both current and projected statistics indicate space is not adequate for the campus population.

"We already have an issue," said Kowalsky. "And it will only get worse."

Campus planning hopes to put together a comprehensive strategy to address this issue, including securing adequate funding before concrete planning takes place. Under current government priorities, Kowalsky thinks it is unlikely the province will provide further funding. He is certain funding will have to come from more than one other source.

"There’s no sugar daddy out there," he said.

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