Volume 13, Number 3 September 23, 2005

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By Colleen MacPherson

Although the pace never seems to let up in planning, development and construction on campus, skyrocketing costs have placed an extra burden on those charged with ensuring the space needs of the University are adequately met.

“The current construction market is applying unprecedented pressure on the tender results of every project,” said Colin Tennent, University architect and acting associate vice-president of Facilities Management Division (FMD). “To add some perspective, the cost of the College Building reconstruction, if tendered today, could be extrapolated to a project cost of $34 million compared to the $20.7 million actual cost.”

A number of factors are contributing to rising prices, said Ron Niekamp, acting director of planning and development. They include increased costs for steel and cement, rising oil and fuel prices and building booms in Asia, Alberta and British Columbia, which is gearing up for the 2010 Olympic games. The Alberta situation has resulted in a shortage of both project management expertise and skilled labour here in Saskatchewan, he said.

“Rising construction costs have a significant impact on our planning and evaluation of projects. We're juggling lots (so) we really have to do our homework with planning, costing, apprising people of where we're at and scheduling. The key, however, is to make sure that we meet the client's needs as much as possible.”

FMD staff provided updates on a number of projects in the works and underway on campus.

Western College of Veterinary Medicine

The first phase of the multi-phase, multi-million-dollar expansion and renovation to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine hit two major snags this summer that have set the project back about five weeks, according to Cam Ewart, manager of project development.

The first was unexpected and uneven soil conditions on the site of the Small Animal Clinic addition on the east side of the building. Ewart said driving piles for the addition was "a challenge", resulting in a redesign of the foundation and use of piles that were cast in place.

The other delay was caused by rain.

The contractor has arranged for the trades to work six-day weeks to try to make up the lost time, but the first Saturday they were on site was Sept. 10, the day Saskatoon received record rainfall. The opening of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital is still scheduled for September 2006 "but it's hard to gain back that kind of time."

Ewart said the biggest challenge for the project is the "balancing act" required to keep the teaching hospital operating 24 hours a day during major construction. Once the addition is complete, work moves to renovations in the core of the existing building which, he said, will be even more difficult to manage in the midst of an operating hospital.

"You do take measures to mitigate the interruptions, but you still have to do the work".

The entire $48 million project must be completed by March 31, 2008 according to an agreement between the University and the federal government, which is providing more than $22 million in infrastructure funding. An additional $15 million is coming from the provincial government with the University responsible for the balance.

Aboriginal Student Space

The Board of Governors will be asked by year-end for initial approval on an Aboriginal student space that has now been expanded to include the Department of Native Studies.

Original planning for the space included SESD's Aboriginal Student Centre, temporarily located in the old Sub Shoppe in Marquis Hall, and the Indigenous Students' Council situated in McLean Hall, said planner Chris Bergen. That concept has since been expanded to include the department which is also currently housed in McLean Hall.

The new space, to be built in Wiggins Court near the Arts Tower, will connect to the lower Arts tunnel. Cost figures for the student support facility have not been finalized.

Academic Health Sciences

Planning continues for both new construction and renovation of existing facilities as part of the massive Academic Health Sciences Project, although construction is already underway on two components that address accreditation requirements for the College of Medicine.

Niekamp said the entire fourth floor of the Health Sciences Building B wing is being renovated to create a lecture theatre and break-out rooms in Phase 1 of the project, and a Clinical Learning Resource Centre as Phase 2. Completion dates are Dec. 30, 2005 and April 2006 respectively.

The Board is expected to get its first look at the whole project in November when it is presented for initial approval.

Toxicology Update

The appointment of John Giesy, currently in the zoology department at Michigan State University, to a Canada Research Chair position here has prompted some changes to the Toxicology Building.

An addition plus interior renovations that will accommodate Giesy's aquatic toxicology research are in the planning stage, Niekamp said.

Place Riel Breezeway

An electrical upgrade to the U of S Students' Union-owned Place Riel building necessitated the closure of the breezeway between it and the Murray Building earlier this month, and more work may be in the offing.

Niekamp said a feasibility study is underway that involves FMD, Consumer Services Division and the USSU with an eye to "what the best functional and spatial relationships will be" when the breezeway is completely closed-in. Commercial infill is being considered.

University Neighbourhood Project

The search is on for a project management consultant and a prime consultant (architect) for the south campus University Neighbourhood housing development that is expected to increase the U of S capacity for dormitory and suite-style accommodation by about 750 beds.

To be built on what is known as the south campus, which runs along Cumberland Avenue south of College Drive, the project has an expected completion date of August 2008. Niekamp said the recently issued Request for Proposals (RFP) for consultants is expected to yield responses that will give the University an opportunity "to evaluate the availability and qualifications of consultants".

He explained that the project management consultant oversees the entire job, guiding work scheduling and budget as well as serving "as the owner's eyes on the site."

Some commercial space may also be included in the project.

Heating Plant Addition

As the campus expands, pressure continues to build on the University's infrastructure. That pressure is expected to be relieved somewhat, particularly in summer months, by the addition of a new chiller in the heating plant.

The two chillers already in place have operated at capacity on some warm-weather days, said Niekamp. The addition of a third unit will provide standby capacity for the current load, beefing up the infrastructure to accommodate the new facilities that have come online in the past few years and to make room for future construction.

Adding the chiller will require an addition to the west side of the plant. The project is expected to be complete by May 2006.

Tennent pointed out the need for additional chiller capacity was identified as part of the Infrastructure Master Plan, a sub-plan of the Core Area Master Plan that takes a long-term view of development of campus. The infrastructure plan, expected to be completed next month, “charts a course for future system expansions that corresponds to the growth potential inherent in the Core Area Master Plan”.

The infrastructure plan will identify both the existing system deficiencies, he said, as well as “a corresponding estimate of costs of correction”.

College of Law Addition

Timelines will be tight and the schedule will be a tough one to meet, but if all goes well, the College of Law will open the doors to a new addition in the fall of 2007.

Bergen said RFPs will go out before the end of September for both prime and project consultants on the $7.5- to $8-million job that will include a new lecture theatre, classrooms, administration offices and student space. The Native Law Centre, now situated across the road in the Diefenbaker Canada Centre, will also be incorporated if an additional $1.2 million can be found for the project.

Unique to the addition will be a number of special features designed for sustainability. Bergen explained that sustainability involves careful attention to issues like where and how building materials are manufactured, how the building is oriented to make use of solar energy and the efficiency of mechanical systems.

"In the end, what we're trying to do is reduce the impact of the building every which way."

Information on sustainability comes from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program set up by the industry-based U.S. Green Building Council. Described as a "leading-edge system for designing, constructing and certifying the world's greenest and best buildings", LEED provides organizations like the U of S with, among other things, training, professional accreditation and resource support.

Griffiths Stadium Upgrades

Football season has started at the University of Saskatchewan, and so has planning for upgrades to Griffiths Stadium, selected as the site of the 2006 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Vanier Cup national championship.

Installation of artificial turf and improved lighting are needed before the Nov. 25, 2006 football contest which will mark the first time since its inception in 1965 that the game will be played outside Ontario. Niekamp said once the final plans are in place, construction will begin with an expected completion date of June next year.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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