With Engineering’s undergraduate enrolment expected to jump more than 25 per cent in the next couple of years, the timing could not be better to break ground on a new building.
With the goal of enhancing teaching and learning spaces, a new 100,000-square-foot building is set to take shape this fall, connecting to the Spencer Engineering Building and Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory (BLWTL), along Western Road. The BLWTL will remain, but office space will removed during construction.
Engineering Dean Andrew Hrymak said the building is all about collaborative education and enabling student-centred learning. With the current complement of about 1,700 undergraduates, 500 research graduate students, 100 faculty and 60 staff expected to grow to around 2,300 undergraduates, 600 research graduate students, 120 faculty and 70 staff, the scheduled September 2018 opening of the $40-million building is much anticipated.
“It was a threshold problem. We had already thought about doing some renovations to accommodate the larger numbers,” said Hrymak, estimating the 2018-19 first-year enrolment will be more than 600. “That date was set because of those expected numbers. Otherwise, we were going to have a different set of problems.
“The decision was, if we went higher, we really needed a new building. Given engineering enrolment at other universities had also grown, what we didn’t want was Western Engineering becoming too small. So, we positioned ourselves as a mid-size university and this will keep us in that area.”
The enrolment growth is especially strong in Mechatronic Systems Engineering and Software Engineering, added Hrymak, who will be part of the move to the new building. Space will reflect interdisciplinary and collaborative activities through the assignment of suite areas.
“What we want to do is take the opportunity to do some things quite differently,” Hrymak said.
Similar in size to the Thompson Engineering Building, the new four-story building, possibly five, will include only ‘dry’ labs with electrical utilities instead of ‘wet’ labs utilizing chemicals requiring a fume hood.
The first two floors will include case teaching-style classrooms, design labs, computer teaching facility and fabrication project space. The upper floors will contain undergraduate and collaborative research labs for Software and Mechatronic Systems Engineering, along with offices for the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and BLWTL. All floors will include meeting rooms and casual spaces for students, staff and faculty.
Working with Perkins & Will, in partnership with Cornerstone Architecture, Hrymak said the university may seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. The Richard Ivey School of Business and Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Pavilion are currently Western’s only LEED Gold buildings.
Like any major project, there are nerves that go along with the anticipation. But Hrymak remains focused on the new possibilities offered by additional space.
“Students are using their laptops and mobile devices for all parts of their education; they are doing more project work; they are doing more collaboration. The excitement comes in new ways of delivering these things,” said Hrymak, who has been working with the Undergraduate Engineering Society on thoughts for the new building. “We’re looking at what other engineering schools have done around the country and trying to get ideas as to what would work with our culture. That’s exciting.”