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Another extreme makeover

Students who have spent time in either of Concordia’s science buildings, Ivers or Jones, know they’ve been around for the while–since 1967 and 1980, respectively. Their age shows when you look at the cracks in the cement floor, or the outdated laboratories and research spaces.

Faculty and students agree it’s time for an update. Plans for renovation have started, and while they are still very preliminary, it’s already creating buzz around campus.

Ellen Aho, professor of biology and head of the design committee, said that plans began in January 2008 to renovate the existing two science buildings, as well as add a new commons area. The makeover will include many areas for informal interaction and group meetings, and a study space. Moreover, the new design will incorporate much more natural light and aesthetic beauty. Current plans show some classrooms as having glass walls, and there is even talk of a rooftop garden.

Aho hopes that with a more open and welcoming design that the new and improved building will be a place where science and math students will want to hang out, as well as students of other disciplines.

Junior Nathaniel Cook, a biology and environmental studies major and president of Student Environmental Alliance, is glad Concordia is finally remodeling the buildings.

“The building we have right now is pretty crappy,” Cook said. He also said that the current buildings don’t encourage learning.

“It’s not a fun place to go right now,” he said.

While it’s difficult to predict when the project will be finished, Aho said that all current students will have graduated by the time of completion. There’s at least a year of planning left to go, and then the construction will begin in phases. First the new additions will be completed, followed by renovations to Ivers, and then Jones.
The cost is currently estimated at about $53.7 million, and fundraising has notstarted yet.

Chemistry Professor Graeme Wyllie is excited about the effects this remodeled building will have on the sciences at Concordia.

“One of the big things with a new building is that it also revitalizes the departments involved,” Wyllie said.

Wyllie also said the new building will make it possible for improved interdisciplinary contact. Aho agreed, saying that these renovations will “abolish traditional departments and modify others.” For instance, programs such as biochemistry and astrophysics will have a much easier time coordinating because of the reconstructed building design.

Wylie said that these renovations are genuinely necessary, because the paradigm in chemistry has changed since the current buildings were built. He said the new labs will be especially important.

“It will make the building a lot more exciting,” Wyllie said.

Another aspect to the project is the commitment to sustainable design for the buildings. According to Aho, the current plans are targeting a LEED silver status.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system. Buildings are certified on a scale of points, which can be earned through sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Depending on the number of points achieved, the building will then be rated as certified, silver, gold, or platinum.

Co-presidents of SEA Nathaniel Cook and Shane Sessions have been asked for input on the reconstruction, and both are glad that Concordia is making this step towards environmental sustainability.

Sessions said that by investing in a LEED silver status, Concordia will be making a statement about its commitment to the environment.

“Colleges serve as progressive examples for their communities,” Cook said. He went on to say that if people see this new science building, maybe they would realize that they could make changes in their own lives to be more environmentally sustainable. Also, by having the science buildings be places of sustainable innovation, Cook hopes it will inspire innovation in the science students.

Additionally, Sessions said if Concordia does get a LEED certification for the new science building, it will be huge marketing tool for prospective students.

And while the sustainability efforts will add cost initially, both presidents agreed that by making the building more energy efficient it will save the college money in the long-run.

Even though the finished product is still a long ways off, excitement for the renovations is already here.

“This is going to be more than just a building, it is going to be something that students learn from directly,” Cook said. “It’s not only going to be a learning environment, but also a learning tool.”

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