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McMaster U student building construction set to start

Patricia Williams
McMaster U student building construction set to start
Ground is expected to be broken in November 2016 on the Living Learning Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. The 12-storey, 359,000-square-foot building will house a student residence, classrooms and a student wellness centre. The $118-million project is being financed by the university. Architects are Diamond Schmitt. -

Hamilton’s McMaster University is poised to break ground on a new multi-purpose building that will house in part a student residence, classrooms and student activity and lounge space.

Designed by Toronto’s Diamond Schmitt Architects, the 12-storey, 359,000-square foot Living Learning Centre will provide residence accommodation for 500 students.

The estimated $118-million project is being financed by the university.

"The schedule calls for shovels in the ground by the end of the year," said Antra Roze, an associate in Diamond Schmitt.

The project is being undertaken by a team that includes structural engineers VanBoxmeer & Stranges Ltd. of London, Ont. and mechanical/electrical engineers WSP/MMM Group Ltd. of Thornhill, Ont. A construction manager is being retained.

Completion is scheduled for September, 2019.

Roze, whose firm is no stranger to McMaster, said the Living Learning Centre is the largest building to be constructed to date at the university campus and the first to combine residential and academic functions.

The facility will also house a student wellness centre and a children’s daycare centre which was temporarily relocated to the west side of campus after construction began on L.R. Wilson Hall.

"Everyone enters the public atrium space of the building and then filters into the academic spaces, student health services, food services, and even the residential lobby," Roze said via email.

The childcare centre on Level 2 has a dedicated entrance and elevator directly adjacent to the building’s main south entrance, bringing young children into the mix.

"This mix of functions and the security concerns that come with it has been an interesting challenge in the design and flow of the building," Roze said.

She said another design challenge has been to "express" the sloped walls of the drum that houses three, stacked auditoriums. This drum is visible on both the outside and inside and must be isolated from surrounding acoustic infiltration and vibration.

The drum is accessed by bridges on the inside that have been designed to maintain this isolation, Roze said.

The exterior drum wall and windows have been detailed with added acoustic separation to ensure that traffic noise from the adjacent parking lot and perimeter roads are not audible in the lecture halls.

"Durability, constructability and functionality all have to come together to make this feature element successful," Roze said.

Given that McMaster is a contemporary university, an "enormous" amount of Internet and power connectivity is required.

New construction details had to be developed to incorporate outlets along perimeter walls, in the open spaces and integrated into furniture and millwork, for example.

One of the three stacked auditoriums embraces a new teaching/learning mythology called Active Learning. This calls for the room to be ringed with wall-mounted monitors that can be linked to individual laptops as a way of interacting and sharing information among 400 students. "Along with the connectivity, there will be video monitors throughout the academic and residential areas to serve as information disseminators and to replace notice boards," Roze said.

"This of course requires a great deal of coordination between building systems, accessibility and special requirements for infrastructure."

LEED Silver is being targeted.

Two "Quonset hut" buildings on the site will be demolished to accommodate construction.

Roze said the Living Learning Centre is a combination of steel and concrete construction "because of the long spans required to accommodate the stacked auditoriums."

Structural engineers VanBoxmeer & Stranges designed a steel truss that is 26 metres long and over 4.5 metres high.

"This giant truss will have to be trucked through the campus and laid into place two storeys above grade."

Roze said the construction schedule will have to take into consideration the surrounding campus "and the necessity to work around activities and keep services running."

To the immediate west of the site is the main campus cafeteria and student services building with its "considerable" student and truck traffic.

Recent Diamond Schmitt projects at McMaster include the Gerald Hatch Engineering Centre for Experiential Learning, the Centre for Biomedical Engineering & Advanced Manufacturing and the CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory at the McMaster Innovation Park.

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