Restoring a campus classic
By Brandon Watson
April 01, 2010
Representing a sign of our economic recovery, the once shelved,
Physics and Astronomy renovation is now well underway.
The much-anticipated renovation of the
Physics and Astronomy Building has begun, with the completion of
one of Western's oldest buildings scheduled for summer 2012. The
centerpiece of the renovation will be the enclosed courtyard, with
skylights allowing for year-round access for the building's
Physics and Astronomy is one of the two original buildings
constructed for the university as it took up residence in the early
1920s on what had been Middlesex County farmland. Built at the same
time was University College.
The $19-million project is scheduled in four phases with the
final phase wrapping up in Summer 2012. This renovation is more
than a facelift, providing much-needed structural upgrades to one
of our campus' oldest buildings.
Physical Plant Project Manager, Fred Janzen notes similar to
other large scale renovations at Western, significant attention is
being paid to the preservation of the history of the building.
For example, the project has been carefully designed to
virtually gut the building while maintaining its original
character. All the beautiful limestone-framed windows are being
replaced with high efficiency double-paned glass. The muntin or
crosshatched pane divider will be replicated to match the current
The HVAC and electrical systems are being completely replaced
with more efficient technology.
The retrofits, especially the revamped utility equipment and
metering capability are major components in achieving LEED Silver
certification. In keeping with Western's commitment to the
Canadian Green Building Council's Existing Building (EB)
certification, all large scale renovations on campus are being
designed and built using the LEED criteria.
Stevenson Hall and Lawson Hall will be the first with LEED
(EB) designation on campus; Physics and Astronomy will be the
The centrepiece of the renovation will be the enclosed
Currently, the Physics and Astronomy building surrounds an
open space. Installing skylights over the courtyard will provide a
year-round oasis for the building's occupants. It will also
require the removal of roughly 14 trees, according to Janzen.
Displacing trees is one of the more sensitive challenges of the
project and one the steering committee is fully addressing.
"We looked at ways to preserve the trees as a project
priority, not only because it's Western's policy, but
because it would be a shame to lose some of these unique species
from our campus," says Janzen.
Western's Master Plan states that every removed tree
will be replaced with one or more trees. In this case, the more
unique species will be preserved through reseeding or replanting
elsewhere on campus.
Physical Plant's grounds crew will be involved in the
splitting and replanting of the mimosa and buckeye. As well, they
will be protecting the existing trees around the site, including
the tulip tree.
Evidence of the upcoming construction is already visible as
the familiar safety zone fences are being erected along Middlesex
Drive and Kent Drive.
Vehicular traffic will not face regular interruptions.
Pedestrians, on the other hand, will notice slight detours in their
routes. Also, large areas to the south and east of the building
have been reserved for contractor work areas, which will have an
effect on the adjacent parking spots.
There will be some disruption of the units within Physics and
Astronomy, but they will not make a major transition to another
facility during the construction.
"Most projects of this magnitude require the occupants
to leave the facility, but because of the modulation of this
project over four phases, we can utilize the space available and
make less dramatic displacements," says Janzen.
Janzen admits changing routes and habits of the building
occupants may be enduring, but he feels turning a nearly century
old building into one of the most resource efficient facilities on
campus will be well worth it.
he writer is a communications specialist in Physical Plant
and Capital Planning Services.
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