repairs and more far-reaching revitalization projects. Jeff Lamb, Dalhousie University’s assistant vice-president of facilities management, says his
administration has likewise pursued a policy of increasing budget allocations for maintenance and renovation by meticulously prioritizing projects according to need. The repair backlog is estimated at $350 million.
Dalhousie, Mr. Lamb says, has tracked the condition of its buildings
and their mechanical systems for many years, but adds that the software
for evaluating and timing retrofits has become more sophisticated as
the university recruited specialized consultants to do this kind of work.
Dalhousie now relies on a commercial tracking system that generates a
benchmark known as the “facilities condition index.” The index is a ratio
of deferred maintenance to replacement cost for individual buildings, and
can be used to identify facilities in pressing need of attention, as well as
those that may not be worth saving.
Seven years ago, Dalhousie embarked on a campus master planning process that identified the need for additional space and focused
on buildings which had high facilities condition index scores, indicating
the highest priority projects. However, a $250 million capital campaign
fell short of its target, forcing administrators to scale back the scope of
greenfield projects, such as a new engineering building. Despite this setback, Mr. Lamb points out that the renewal program followed through
on significant upgrades and renovations of existing facilities, such as the
university’s dental clinics, which received a $26 million refurbishment.
Undeterred by others’ experiences, the University of Regina has made
its massive revitalization plan the focus of its capital campaign this year.
The university’s College Avenue Campus Renewal project, which has
been the institution’s top fundraising priority for the year, aims to refurbish the oldest part of the campus, including several heritage buildings.
The 30-month project includes renovations to classrooms, lecture halls
and performance space, as well as a large concourse with common-area
seating for up to 300 students.
According to the CAUBO study, some campuses with a high concentration of buildings of roughly the same vintage – especially 1960s
structures – face more difficulty financing their facilities renewal efforts
because the aging issues materialize in a concentrated period. Yet Mr.
Watt at Carleton, an institution which saw major campus development in
the 1960s and ’70s, has managed to find the money. Thanks to a strong
balance sheet and healthy reserves, Carleton has been able to draw on
its annual operating budget and some provincial government refurbishment grants to finance several renewal projects, starting with a pair of
large buildings – the Tory Building and the MacOdrum Library – that
were stripped down to the beams and completely rebuilt in the past
More recently, the university’s board approved a $140-million budget
over 10 years to address other pressing capital improvements. This should
“significantly reduce the level of deferred maintenance on our campus,”
says Mr. Watt.
Money, it should be said, isn’t the only hurdle with rehabilitation efforts. As with Laurentian’s Alphonse Raymond complex, structures from
the 1960s and ’70s are often difficult to renovate and require extensive
internal refurbishment to add contemporary elements now regarded as
standard: lots of natural light, generous common areas, good seating,
warm finishes and surfaces. Ms. Browne adds that, as designers, Diamond
Schmitt also tries to respect the original architecture, a goal that can be
achieved by carefully excising years of ad hoc renovations.
The modernization process, in Laurentian’s case, also sought to deliv-
er on the university’s long-standing commitment to sustainability. As an
example, Ms. Browne points to the introduction of natural ventilation in
the Parker Building, an 11-storey concrete tower that will become part of
the campus’s new gateway. That move reduces energy use, and thus cost,
while improving air quality. “The whole project is about chipping away at
these goals in a sustainable way.”
The project also required a lot of creativity. Mr. Parkes and other se-
nior administrators had to problem-solve their way through a process that
included 400 public meetings, extensive program and space allocation
planning, and a detailed examination of the opportunity to revitalize, in
ways large and small, a campus that doesn’t expect signifcant enrolment
growth or relatively much in the way of philanthropic support ($7 million
came from benefactors). Ms. Browne came away from the project im-
pressed. “It’s so good to see a client who is thinking about their campus as
a whole, compared to institutions trying to reinvigorate campuses through
expansion,” she says. “They take the mindset that you work with what
An 1880s factory was repurposed to become
Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine
and Performing Arts, opened in September.