Future focused on existing infrastructure

Gauntlet: There’s a lot of construction going on around campus. Can you go over what’s happening?

Ellard: The [Fok Ying Tung] International House is effectively complete; we’re just tidying up the parking, so that should be done within a matter of weeks.

The Taylor Family Library construction should be done in September of this year. It’ll take some time to move the MacKimmie Library and the Nickle Arts Museum into the new building, so we will not have the TFL open until September of 2011.

In doing that, we will close the MacKimmie Tower and the Nickle Arts Museum May 1 of next year. We had to pick a date when we weren’t operating multiple buildings because we don’t get additional money from the province to operate the new building before we close the old ones.

Tied in with that is the Taylor Family Quad, which is under construction now. We timed it so when students come back to classes it’ll be– I’m cautiously optimistic it’ll be done. It’ll certainly be open. It might not be 100 per cent done but it’ll certainly be usable.

The [Energy Environment Experiential Learning] building will be completed in the summer of 2011 and we haven’t looked at the detail of how we will actually start to occupy that building because it’s more than one faculty that’s in there. To what extent people will be moving over, we’re probably three or four months away from knowing that for sure.

There’s the Phase Six Residence, we call it ‘Phase Six’ because we don’t have a name for it yet. That will be done at the end of this year, but we’re not going to open it until May of 2011.

We will take occupancy of the Downtown Campus August of this year, 2010, and we’ll be offering classes starting in September 2010, with the exception of the top two floors. They won’t be able to open until January of 2011 just because of the way the construction is sequenced.

G: I’ve been at the school for a few years now and there seems to be a lot going on construction-wise. Is this the end point of a bunch of different things that have come up, or was everything intentionally timed?

Ellard: You’re correct in your observation in that we’re finishing up a big slug of grant work that was provided four or five years ago to the university. And while it’s not the end, it’s probably the end of an era of new construction.

G: So that does the future of expansion look like at the school?

Ellard: It’s a bit of a domino effect as we go, starting with the closure of the MacKimmie. If we brought in senior administration that would mean a major group of people coming out of the Admin Building and that would then join our list of buildings to be refurbished.

Most of our buildings are 40-plus years old. I don’t need to name buildings, but a lot of them have outlived their initial design life so we’re going to move into repurposing them.

We’ve got some buildings that are just horrendous, bad examples of what you can do and we have to fix them. Instead of building us a new building and tearing down an old building and building another new one we’re going to keep our campus footprint small– we’re going to take the sustainable route and we’ll get another 80 to 100 years out of these repurposed buildings.

We’re going to do bit of a checker board around campus and I’m going to say it’s at least a 10-year program. It’s probably even longer than that, but the target will be to improve the quality of the buildings we have starting with the worst.

G: What about some of the other older buildings on campus? The Schulich Engineering Building is going through some fairly major renovations, is that part of your repurposing plan?

Ellard: We have designed a major addition and repurposing of that building. We have $25 million right now that’s being spent there and we have another $145 million that we don’t have identified yet that will be a major addition. So when Schulich is complete it’ll be the first of our repurposed buildings.

The second one will most likely be Science A because some of the folks from Science A will go into the EEEL building. When that happens we have swing space within the building to then decant some of the functions, start some of the new construction.

So Schulich, Science A and MacKimmie in that order.

G: What are the plans for the Nickle Arts?

Ellard: We have no use for it right now, but we have a number of things in mind. Lots of people have lots of ideas, so we’re hiring a consultant right now who’ll work with us and all the stakeholders.

The building is one of the oldest ones on campus, it has a long list of functional and technical issues. That will probably take a year and a half to get that all sorted out.

G: And what about MacEwan Hall?

Ellard: We’re still 8­­-9 months out from talking about what’s going to go on, but my hope is that when it’s redesigned it will reflect a lot of things that maybe aren’t there as prominently as they could be– true student services. And that won’t be at the expense of retail or other functions, but the building is not properly thought out, it just sort of happened over time.

G: Did the recession put a lot of the university’s plans off the table or screw them up?

Ellard: I wouldn’t say it screwed it up, at one point we had one billion dollars in construction, we still have the better part of that now.

So when the recession hit and the province said, “There’s no more capital,” they didn’t take back any of the capital they’d given us previously. We were able to see the projects through to completion that we had on the go.

It also gave us some breathing room to say, “What are we going to do in the future? We’re not going to simply continue to build new buildings, that’s not the right thing to do.”

So this notion of repurposing

see Future of the u of c, page 6

existing buildings came along and we’re actually able to, I think in the long run, provide a much better campus.

G: That brings up some of the environmental initiatives at the school. I know with the EEEL building, there are some new energy consumption changes.

Ellard: Our buildings that will open in the next two years are done to a very high level of energy efficiency and we’re exceeding national energy standards in all of our buildings. So when we look at our new buildings and look at our old buildings it’s quite a dramatic comparison.

We’re spending about $25 million re-lamping buildings, putting in new control systems so we can monitor lighting systems, we can shut buildings down, we can shut down portions of buildings– just do a better job of managing the energy.

Something we’re just starting to roll on now, we’re in the consultative phase with the faculties, is changing our hours of operation. Right now all of our buildings are operated 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and there are no appreciable differences between what you would see on December 25 and what you would see on a Wednesday afternoon in February. We’re not going to close our buildings, but we’re going to change how we operate them. We’re not going to operate our buildings in the future the way we do now. Over the next year and a half, we will save millions of dollars of operation.

G: What’s something else your department is planning that students might not know about?

Ellard: We wanted to put more emphasis on people using bikes coming to campus and giving them a proper and safe location to store them, so we’re going to develop a series of bike shelters. But in doing that, we’ll take certain areas where the bike shelters will be in close proximity and those will be no ride zones. I don’t know if you walk there on a busy day and someone comes riding through on a bike, but it can be a little dangerous. We’re hopeful we can have this up and running for this time next year.

G: With all of this construction going on, a lot of students might feel inconvenienced, especially over the summer.

Ellard: With all of this comes a level of inconvenience. Prime example, you can’t walk across campus the way you might want to, but four or five months from now that’ll be better. And I think people will see that’s it’s worth the inconvenience.

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