Over the course of the past little while here at John Abbott there has been a considerable amount of renovations that have been happening around various parts of the college. In one case, such as the Herzberg / Hochelaga hallway, there has been a delay that has been an inconvenience to some students due to the restricted access to the hallway. So, to address some of the inquiries that students may have been having regarding the construction, I sat down with Wayne McKinnon, ENG., PMP®, Project Management Coordinator of the renovation projects at JAC.
Q1. What was the purpose of the renovations in the Herzberg / Hochelaga hallway?
The renovations in the Herzberg / Hochelaga hallway, are part of a general construction program that originally appeared in 2011 and has undergone significant revision since that time. This plan to update the facilities in the college was undertaken to address the deteriorating conditions of various buildings. For this reason, the Herzberg / Hochelaga hallways was slated as another point for the construction.
Q2. What was the initial timeline for the renovations of the hallway, and why has it changed?
Originally, the hallway construction was supposed to start during the summer, however due to the library construction and a focus on updating classrooms, that resulted in delays to the commencement. Furthermore, the job is a difficult one, as the access to the area through a singular hallway has slowed demolition efforts and bringing in materials too has been troublesome. There have also been some surprises, such as unexpected piping that was not on the plans of the building, and the different construction techniques used to create the hallway has meant that the workers have needed to be more careful so not as to damage anything in the process. Also, another factor is of course the harsh weather that has delayed the project.
Q3. Have you received any complaints from students or staff regarding the delays?
Regarding the delays specifically, there has not be any complaints received from either staff or students. Mostly, there is a sense of anxiousness to resume normal activities within the hallway. The current estimate for completion is April 20th.
Q4. Regarding the library, can you comment on why it’s being renovated and what features will be added?
The original library building was built in 1905 and was originally a theatre that was repurposed into a library. An extension was added in 1961 to supplement the existing space, but since then there has been relatively little construction that has gone on there. The current construction in the library has been to update the library facilities to meet the new needs of students as more studying is done with technology. So, to reflect that, the renovated library will have more computer spaces and IT services for the students to use, and not focus as much on physical books. Also, to accommodate the needs of students to work collaboratively in groups, the design of the library is more open, and has more work spaces for students to work together.
Q5. Is the library construction on schedule to be completed?
The library renovations are operating on a tight schedule, which is currently on track. The estimated time to complete all the construction of the library is during the November and December 2018 period, however, due to the need to place furniture and set up the rest of the services in the library, a realistic date for the opening of the library is Winter 2019.
Q6. Has the college been looking at how the lack of study spaces due to the library renovations might affect the academic performance of students?
The college is quite concerned with the needs of students in this regard and has tried to offer more study spaces around the college, and that will hopefully increase in time. At this point, the number of available spaces is roughly the same, however the college recognizes that some of these areas are not as convenient as the library as noise from other students is a factor. However, aside from the peak changing of classrooms times, students have been respectful of those who are studying, and in some cases like on Herzberg second floor, sound attenuation chairs have been implemented to minimize the amount of noise experienced by their users. Specific regard has been given to keep these spaces as multipurpose as possible, allowing for both individual and group study. As well, to have less students sitting on the floor, many benches have been installed around the college. Additionally, a number of these added study places will stay where they are, such as those in
Herzberg, even when the library renovation is completed.
Q7. On another note, the gender-neutral bathrooms, what was the process that went into implementing those facilities?
The original request for the gender-neutral bathrooms came as a request on behalf of one of the student groups on campus, but when construction began on the new bathrooms already scheduled to be renovated the decision to implement the washrooms had not been finalized. Nevertheless, in designing the layout of the bathrooms, research was done into what examples existed in North America for these sorts of facilities, but not many examples were found. The design adopted in Herzberg is like the genderneutral washrooms in the Vatican and elsewhere in Europe. Part of the reasoning for this was also to respect building codes that had certain requirements for washrooms, but also as a compromise to meet the options of either gendered or gender-neutral. In the end, this design was chosen, as a simple sign change allowed for the adoption of gender neutral washrooms if the College leadership went through with their implementation. As one can see, this happened, as the changes were made to reflect a change in culture, and to respect various groups present on campus.
In the future, the college is looking to have more of these gender-neutral washrooms such as on two floors of the new library. Also, additional special needs washrooms will be built, in the library and in Casgrain. All these changes are to reflect a respect of choice and allow students and staff several options for their facilities.
Q8. What other renovations are planned to take place in the future of JAC?
Currently, the library renovations are absorbing the bulk of the Facilities department’s resources, through things like negotiating prices, working out bids for materials, and quality assurance. However, over the course of the year, some projects at the college include installing a new air conditioning system for the Casgrain gyms. Further work in that building is expected. It is a complex task as it houses many different resources such as the Visual Arts department, various classrooms, and the Phys Ed. facilities. Another ongoing project is to update the foundations of the college buildings, so that they will last another 100 years. Nevertheless, it is difficult to foresee what other projects can be completed soon due to the library construction.
Originally published in Bandersnatch Vol. 47 Issue 11 on March 28, 2018