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January 10, 2002 New Science Complex is one of the continent's largest and smartest



Complex under construction

Recent visitors to the Loyola Campus are impressed by the size and busy atmosphere of the construction site for the new Science Complex.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Maquette of new complex

Maquette by Marosi Troy/Jodoin Lamarre Pratte/Cardinal Hardy and Associates

Courtesy of Marosi Troy/Jodoin Lamarre Pratte/Cardinal Hardy and Associates

by Robert Scalia

It will house nearly 800 rooms, including more than 250 offices and 330 research and teaching rooms. These will be distributed over five floors, two basement levels and will occupy about 20,000 square metres of the building’s gross 33,000 square metres of space.

Bob Roy can rattle off every possible dimension and specification for Concordia’s new $85-million Science Complex, but as he hovers over a maquette in an office littered with colour-coded floor plans, it is his imaginative analogies that make the building come alive. Dr. Roy is Vice-Dean of Planning for the Faculty of Arts and Science.

“It’s more like a battleship than an office building,” he explained, alluding to the building’s integration of heavy machinery, potentially hazardous materials and state-of-the-art research labs.

There’s the service corridor system in the north wing, for example — what Roy casually refers to as the “back alley.” Running along the back of every lab, this hallway will allow researchers and technicians to transport and temporarily store chemicals and keep expensive lab equipment secure.

Environmental issues

The main ventilation, plumbing and electrical systems will run through this main “service spine,” a concept presently used in a number of recent science buildings, including that of pharmaceutical giant Merck Frosst.

The building’s 220 fume hoods will also converge through this corridor. These exhaust hoods and canopies will continually remove the laboratories’ air and replace it with fresh air as often as 10 to 20 times an hour, Roy said.

Why is this necessary? “You wouldn’t want to fill up your car in a garage. That’s why gas pumps are outside,” he explained. By the same token, lab work usually involves alcohols and solvents that can either explode or become toxic if the fumes are not constantly diluted. “You have to bring the outside indoors, if you like.”

That’s no small feat. In fact, Roy insists that science buildings consume vast amounts of energy — everything from powering heavy machinery to running freezers that chill to – 100 C to maintaining set climatic conditions in the various greenhouses, controlled environment rooms and aquatic labs.

“This kind of building is an energy hog,” he said flatly, pointing out that the 1,250-kilowatt emergency auxiliary generator alone could power a small town. Engineers were forced to design a new electrical substation on campus, because there simply wasn’t enough power.

“Just one typical research lab consumes more energy than an average house over a year, “ Roy said. “We will have hundreds of labs. It’s a great challenge to make it a ‘green’ building.’”

Unlike the Hall Building, where most of Concordia’s science teaching and research is now done, this new complex comes equipped with a variable air volume computerized central ventilation system. Aided by motion sensors and presence detectors, the system will “know” whether or not individual labs are in use and, therefore, what level of ventilation is necessary.

“I’ll also be able to check and see if students are doing their lab work or not,” he added jokingly.

Furnishing most of the offices and labs with windows to provide natural light will cut down the electricity bill; virtually all the offices and labs have windows.

Normally, Roy explained, having more windows would actually drive up energy costs, particularly when trying to air-condition such a building, but that’s where the aluminum louvers come in.

Much like horizontal blinds fitted outside the windows, these planed louvers will block most of the unwanted sunlight and the resulting heat, while preserving natural light and external views. Roy insists that these and various other measures will cut energy consumption by as much as 25 per cent. In addition, the energy costs for the Hall Building, which was not built for modern science facilities, will be drastically cut back when science moves out.

Concordia’s “mixed-function” (teaching and research) complex is already ranked among the largest new science buildings in North America, in the top 20th percentile. It will house biology, chemistry, exercise science, psychology, physics, the Science College, and the Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics.

Tenders for the contractors and subcontractors to finish the building will be opened (formally revealed in the presence of the bidders) on Jan. 16. If all goes according to plan, the Concordia Science Complex will be fully operational by September 2003.