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Navigating change and building for the future

With more than 80 buildings across two campuses and a sizable student population, managing Concordia’s facilities is no small feat. Add to that a constantly shifting COVID-19 landscape, and the magnitude of the work in 2021-22 comes fully into view.

“The pandemic forced many of us to adapt to remote learning, teaching and work, but also taught us to further value our shared campus spaces,” says Marie-Claude Lavoie, associate vice-president of Facilities Management.

She praises her team for taking advantage when there were fewer-than-usual people on campus due to COVID-19 restrictions and before the larger-scale return to in-person work. Facilities Management produced several major achievements during that period. 

“We used this time to increase the number of projects in our space — just to make sure that when community members did come back, we were ready to accommodate their needs,” Lavoie shares.

Among those were several exciting new projects. For example, as part of the ongoing work in the Henry F. Hall Building, Facilities Management completed renovations to the fourth floor, delivering eight classrooms — totalling 700 seats plus 50 more in collaborative spaces —prior to the summer 2022 term. 

In the J.W. McConnell Building, the team created a space in a highly visible first-floor location for the new SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation. The new site is in line with Concordia’s commitment to outstanding student experience and student engagement. “The SHIFT Centre will facilitate internal and external collaboration for a significant area of research and teaching activity at the university,” explains David D’Arcangelo, interim senior director of project management for Facilities Management.

As well, new interior construction took place on the first basement of the Applied Science Hub. As a result, Facilities Management successfully delivered space for the Centre for Microscopy and Cell Imaging and the District 3 Innovation Hub for occupation in winter 2022. 

Other accomplishments

Lavoie expresses pride for those in all of her units who helped facilitate the transition back to campus.

For example, the property unit had to be flexible, pivoting quickly from the challenges that came from a sudden spike in use when campus activities picked up in early 2022. “My property management team did an amazing job to support the return of activities,” she says.

The renovation to the Faubourg Building parking is another example. Improvements include installing five electric-vehicle charging stations, better lighting, more cameras and big, colourful signage. The garage now features 206 spaces for daily parking.

Facilities Management also made a significant investment in preventive work to reduce deferred maintenance and maintain the buildings to support the university’s academic and research activities. Examples of this preventive work include the replacement of ventilation system filters, water filters and mechanical system belts, testing generators, managing chemicals in hydronic networks and cleaning water towers. 

Impressive certifications

Facilities Management received a number of impressive certifications for Concordia buildings in 2021-22:

  • The Canada Green Building Council recognized the Applied Science Hub with a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold.
  • The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Québec’s Building Energy Challenge recognized several of the university’s structures for their greenhouse gas-reductions:
    • The John Molson Building (MB) earned a Diamond Distinction — the highest distinction — in the education and laboratory category.
    • Six Concordia buildings received a platinum ranking: the Guy-De Maisonneuve (GM) Building, the Jesuit Residence (JR), the Grey Nuns Residence (GN) and the Z, M and B annexes.
    • The Visual Arts (VA) Building won a silver ranking.

Planning ahead

Addressing Concordia’s space deficit is a number-one priority for Facilities Management looking ahead, Lavoie says. That’s why future planning based on student population growth and university development is a crucial part of her team’s work. 

Spurred by the university’s growing space needs, Facilities Management has also been working closely with the City of Montreal on Concordia’s development plan to evaluate zoning modifications, adaptive reuse and architectural integration. “We continue to be agile on the real estate market to make sure that we can support growth for the next 10 to 15 years,” Lavoie reports. Recent property acquisitions include the Beau Château apartment complex on Guy Street and two new buildings on Mackay Street. 

Whether for new projects or renovations, Lavoie adds that community consultation is pivotal. In 2021-22, her team sought feedback from students, staff and faculty on accessibility and sustainability among many priorities identified in the development plan. 

As Lavoie explains, “These answers will help us make choices for our campuses and also indicate to the city what the larger community values most in an urban setting.”

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