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Eyes wide open: Students can see their new home’s building elements

The two-phase project revamped an opaque, horseshoe-shaped labyrinth of seven buildings from the ’60s and ’70s.

November 20, 2017 |

The light-filled, five-story atrium connects the new addition with the existing building and provides gathering space for students. Photo: Jon Miller – Hedrich Blessing Photographers

“Engineering on display.” That was the theme for the 119,500-sf renovation and 197,000 sf of new construction of the University of Calgary’s engineering school. Instead of hiding MEP and structural elements, the design team of Diamond Schmitt Architects and Gibbs Gage Architects exposed them to students’ view, thereby celebrating them as a learning mechanism.

The two-phase project, which kicked off in 2009 and is on target for LEED Gold certification, revamped an opaque, horseshoe-shaped labyrinth of seven buildings from the ’60s and ’70s into a unified, daylight-filled complex with a new central hub, upgraded labs and classrooms, improved circulation, and a new, welcoming front door.

Numerous building code, seismic, and accessibility improvements were made—lighting and sprinkler system upgrades, window replacements, etc. Five lecture theatres were refurbished; two 240-seat rooms were added to the complex.

Reconstruction Awards jurors were impressed with the three-story-high structural glass entry hall. Structural engineer RJC Engineering supported the entry hall with two 56-foot-high cross braces that extend through large openings in the main floor down to the basement. The cross braces—the only vertical supporting members in the entryway—double as a graphic feature. They also support a system of lattice trusses to carry the cantilevered structural glass.

The design team employed the latest computer-modeling techniques for the much-needed seismic upgrade, but further developed systems that addressed predicted structural concerns related to the limitations of the existing structures. This reduced the amount of new construction, saving costs and time.

The jurors praised the team for using its expertise and experience to turn a complex structural problem into a readily constructible, aesthetically pleasing solution.


Project Summary


Silver Award Winner

Building Team: Diamond Schmitt Architects (submitting firm, architect) Gibbs Gage Architects (joint venture architect) RJC Engineering (SE) SNC Lavalin (ME) Stebnicki & Partners (EE) EllisDon (CM).

Details: 316,500 sf. Total cost: CDN $174 million. Construction time: April 2009 to September 2016 (two phases). Delivery method: Construction manager.


See all of the 2017 Reconstruction Award winners here

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