The COVID-19 pandemic forced Facilities Management teams to rethink and reorganize key elements of their operations– and very quickly. Even before the government-ordered closures, cleaning protocols were put in place, the mechanical systems of buildings were adapted, and capacity analysis and access procedures were underway.
“Many of our buildings are very complex. They house infrastructure, research facilities and the work and belongings of thousands of people. You cannot simply lock up the buildings and walk away,” says Marie-Claude Lavoie, associate vice-president of Facilities Management. “And once we’d succeeded in closing buildings, we had to figure out ways to safely re-open a few weeks later.”
Opening up labs required intense coordination with the Office of Research, Environmental Health and Safety and Campus Security. Restarting construction and renovation projects meant expanding that cooperation to include external parties like contractors and the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).
“Because of the uncertainty, we had to plan for various scenarios and be mindful of the sequencing of work, contracts and changing community needs.”
The controlled re-opening meant continued adaptation of cleaning schedules and methods to reduce the risk of outbreaks on campus.
In summer 2019, Facilities Management began installing the Learning Square (LS) — a modular building designed to help relocate dozens of classes during major renovation in the Hall Building.
“Built in 1966, the Hall needs to be modernized from its visible spaces to its technical core. In fall 2019, we started using a new process of renovating entire floors. That’s what’s allowing us to build fully inclusive washrooms and more active learning classrooms, starting with the 6th floor of Hall,” says Lavoie.
Moving classes into the LS during the planned five years of work made sense from both the financial and pragmatic point of view. When the building’s downtown tenure is up, it can be relocated or sold thanks to its modular components. It was also delivered in record time, opened for the start of the winter 2020 term.
In September 2019, Facilities Management began work on 2,000 square metres of new space on the Hall Building 10th floor for the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science. The project included construction of new teaching labs, wet labs and Concordia’s first living lab.
“It’s an environment for students to experiment with real-time building automation, heating, ventilation, air conditioning controls and lighting management systems. It should be especially useful for younger students who don’t necessarily get access to such facilities until they reach the graduate level,” Lavoie says.
Fall 2019 was also a time to redesign the main entry point to the Loyola Campus. Planners focused on pedestrians, ecology and aesthetics.
“We increased the biomass and planted indigenous trees and plants — including the groundcover. We also significantly improved water capture, something that is good for the plants and for those walking towards the Administrative Building, where winter ice could be an issue,” Lavoie says.
Spring 2020 saw the completion of the Applied Science Hub. The state-of-the-art facility was designed to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and research in areas like aquatic biology, microscopy, cellular imaging, nanoscience, bioprocessing and chemical and materials engineering. It also includes the District 3 Innovation Hub for young science entrepreneurs.
“We designed a building able to house all sorts of different equipment and accommodate unique research groups. The spaces are immensely technical but still centred around the needs of people,” Lavoie adds.
Even moving into the space was complex — and not just because the COVID-19 crisis hit just before the planned move date. Specialized technicians were required for some elements, as well as Concordia IT, Environmental Health and Safety and Security experts.
“The idea is to allow researchers to push their work further through the collaborative spaces we helped create. It’s a departure from traditional research labs, designed with particular people and work in mind. We hope that the flexibility we built into the spaces will allow them more flexibility, too.”
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