New building begins new era for Schulich

By Paul Mayne
October 16, 2013

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She knew the Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine was a big project. But as the building opened its doors yesterday, Brenda Stonehouse found big satisfaction in it as well.

“I love it,” said Stonehouse, Facilities Management project lead on the new building. Located along Western Road near the intersection with Windermere Road, the 60,000-square-foot building was officially opened Wednesday morning, although students have been there since September.

Michael Strong, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentsitry dean, said having researchers, educators and learners together in the facility will lead to new collaborations and innovations to improve health care.

“I often say to people you don’t build a building to solve a problem, except this one,” he laughed. “The problem is we have a very expensive health-care system, but we don’t know if the investment we make on a regular basis – and is increasingly costly – is truly the right one to make. If we can make differences in how we deliver health care, how we evaluate and implement it, it’s going to have implications not only for us, but nationally and internationally.”

Strong added there is no reason why London cannot be the centre in Canada others turn to with questions about health-care delivery.

“We’re opening not just a new building, but a new way to educate out students; to think about our health care, to become engaged with our government and do so in a sustainable fashion. So yes, sometimes you build a building to solve a problem.”

Strong was joined by Western President Amit Chakma, along with the Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and hundreds of others for the opening ceremony. At centre stage, however, was the building. Its specs speak for themselves, said Stonehouse, who spent so much time at the building, she ended up grabbing her own temporary office space.

Funding for the $17.3 million building stemmed from three sources – the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care contributed a total of $1.8 million for the building and a research component; Foundation Western contributed $250,000; and the remainder came from the Schulich and the Department of Family Medicine.

Featuring a 100-seat lecture theatre with videoconferencing capabilities, multiple breakout rooms for small-group teaching, faculty and administration offices and meeting spaces, the state-of-the-art building is home to the Department of Family Medicine, Centre for Studies in Family Medicine and the Schulich Interfaculty Program in Public Health.

It will serve as the centre of activity for campuswide initiatives, bringing together patient-centred care, with population health and a global vision of public health.

As example of environmental sustainability, Western is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver status for the building. LEED is the leading green building certification system in North America, providing a framework for practical and measurable green building design and construction.

With features such as sunshades on the windows, a rainwater harvesting flushing tank, showers in the washroom, recycled magazines in the glass partitions and light-harvesting sensors throughout the building, the facility would join the McIntosh Gallery as the second LEED Silver building on campus. The Richard Ivey Building and Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Pavilion both achieved Gold status.

“One of the things that stands out for me is the use of the natural stone inside the building,” said Stonehouse, noting that is usually only seen when retrofitting a building that has the existing stone like the Stevenson Hall renovation. “This time was on purpose, and we’ve used it throughout the building.”

While it’s a four-storey structure, only three floors are currently occupied. The third floor is on ‘stand-by’ for expected growth within the building.

One item separating the building from others around campus is the zinc cladding wrapping the exterior. People will either love it or hate it, Stonehouse said, but personally, she loves it.

“I think it shows the juxtapositions of all the different materials used and brings them together quite well. There are a lot of angles and complexities to the design,” she said. “It was the original architect design and was different than what we may normally see on campus. It wasn’t because it was cheaper; it’s just the look and vision the architect proposed it to us and we liked the idea of it.”

The stone feature in the rear of the building, where the curved structure faces west, is the “first thing you see” when looking from campus.

While there are a few minor details to be wrapped up – including the installation of elevators, delayed over the summer due to an elevator-installers strike – Stonehouse is thrilled with how the project turned out.

“You’ll be finding students using the break out spaces and the retro-style furniture lends itself to meeting and discussion areas,” she said. “There are a lot of collaboration spaces, meeting spaces, all made multifunctional and very versatile. The breakout rooms actually turn into mini-classrooms. It’s a new way of learning for a younger generation and the building, I feel, meets those needs.”


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