Construction set to begin on new research building

Special to Western News

University planners hope a new campus facility will provide researchers across varied disciplines an environment conducive to confronting the biggest questions facing society.

“The answers to the most difficult global problems and challenges facing us today lie at the intersection of disciplines. Increasingly, these answers require the active and critical involvement of multiple specialties to address their depth and complexity,” said John Capone, Vice-President (Research). “Western is at the forefront of fostering leading-edge, cross-disciplinary research. We have made significant investments over the past few years in strategic areas to expand and advance our global competitiveness and impact.”

Construction begins in mid-to-late winter on the latest investment in that pursuit.

The Western Interdisciplinary Research Building (WIRB) is a new facility university planners envision as a focal point for leading-edge research. Located on the current Visual Arts Parking Lot off Perth Drive, the 130,000-square-foot facility will serve as the new home for the Research Cluster for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, as well as provide five mixed-use general classroom spaces. Approximately 25,000 square feet over two floors will be unfinished to accommodate future research related space needs.

“WIRB is another demonstration of our commitment to investing in interdisciplinary areas of strength, as is articulated in Western’s strategic plan as an institutional priority,” said Janice Deakin, Provost and Vice-President (Academic). “The building will significantly increase our capacity to support research teams that draw on the expertise of faculty, staff and students across campus. With programs like Interdisciplinary Development Initiatives – which has provided seed funding for 23 projects since its inception and attracted 18 applications in its fifth round – we are working hard to create new opportunities for learning and discovery that go beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries.”

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The building will be eight floors, plus a mechanical penthouse and partial basement. In order to optimize use of land on this site, its footprint will occupy roughly half of the site. The remaining south half of the site will be available for future phases of construction, said Boris Pertout, Project Manager from Facilities Management.

The Board of Governors approved the allocation of one-time funds for the building’s construction in 2013-14 University Budget. Last month, design work was completed and a tender was released for construction. That process was accelerated to meet the desired completion schedule of late 2017 or early 2018. The award of the construction contract is scheduled for later this month.

As part of that construction, the Visual Arts lot will close at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 29, and not reopen until late 2017. Alternative parking for Grey and Orange permit holders can be found at the Medway or South Valley lots. Chemistry and Westminster Hall lots are also available, but are typically busier and fill quickly. Currently, the Visual Arts lot holds about 270 parking spaces; approximately 100 spots will remain after construction.

“The new facility will have a major impact on our ability to recruit outstanding researchers, encourage new partnerships and promote new and innovative training opportunities for our students,” Capone continued. “Indeed, we are already seeing the positive effects of this investment in our recent success in attracting leading researchers from globally prominent institutions that will be housed in the new building.”

The Interdisciplinary Research Building is only one of a number of construction and renovation projects across campus, including:

  • University College Modernization – Originally constructed in 1922, University College has seen two additions in subsequent years – the West Addition in 1962 and the North Addition in 1967. The building was identified as the university’s highest priority major deferred maintenance project, and has been part of the long-range space plan for a number of years. The current project involves interior modernization of nearly 120,000 square feet; retaining/restoring the historically significant features of the building; and replacing electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. The project remains in the planning phase, with an expected completion of September 2018;
  • New Academic Building – Construction continues on a new academic building to house the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing. The 130,000-square-foot facility will feature computer labs, media studies studios, clinical training labs, library science facilities, faculty/staff offices, research/scholarship spaces and student spaces. The project will be completed in January 2017;
  • Talbot College Music Building – Construction of a new Don Wright Faculty of Music facility, attached to the Talbot College Building, to house Music performance and teaching spaces was completed this year. The project is composed of three ‘blocks’ – a new five-storey building between the existing Talbot and Music facilities; renovation of the existing three-storey east wing of the music building; and a two-storey addition to the south of the existing music building. The west wing of the existing Music Building will be removed when all remaining  deficiencies of the new space are completed;
  • Chemistry Building-Modernization of Synthetic Laboratory Facilities – As part of a multi-year phased approach to the renewal of instruction and research laboratories in Chemistry, two labs have already been upgraded. The proposed third phase involves the renewal of laboratories in Rooms 209-213. The scope includes fume hood upgrades, increased ventilation capacity, electrical infrastructure upgrades, replacement of cabinetry and work benches and improved layout to accommodate 15 graduate students and 10 undergraduate thesis students;
  • Servery and Dining Hall Upgrades, Saugeen Maitland Hall – Constructed in 1967-68, Saugeen-Maitland Hall was identified by university planners as having the fewest student geared amenities of any residence. This project will update the kitchen, servery and dining hall of the residence with the goal of having the same look and feel as that of Ontario Hall. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2016;
  • Dental Sciences Building, Third Floor Research Laboratory – Project encompasses the demolition of existing laboratory space located on the third floor of the Dental Sciences Building, then construction approximately 9,000 square feet of research lab space for Microbiology and Immunology professor Eric Arts as a level 2/3 Infectious Disease Pathogenesis & Imaging Facility. The lab will include construction of laboratory stations, preparation room, autoclave/autoclave support system, gas cylinder stations, meeting room, faculty offices and study space for up to 50 graduate students. The project site has been abated of hazardous substances, redundant partitions, mechanical and electrical systems in preparation for the construction phase. Construction is anticipated to begin this month; and
  • Dental Sciences Building, Level 3 Facility – Project encompasses the reconstruction of a portion of the existing animal holding facility, located on the sixth floor of the Dental Sciences Building. The new facility will contain Contamination Level 2 and 3 research laboratories for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Design for the lab is in progress. Construction is anticipated to start in the New Year.