When the University of Ottawa wanted to build a new, state-of-the-art home for its Faculty of Health Sciences, it turned to an experienced PCL team that took a client-centered approach to overcome the project’s unique challenges.

The project included the demolition of three buildings from the 1950s and the construction of a five-story, 234,000-square-foot building that houses the university’s schools of nursing, nutrition sciences and rehabilitation sciences. It has 18 research and teaching labs and 18 classrooms and can accommodate 4,000 students and 700 administrative and teaching personnel.

The first step the team undertook was to sit down and collaborate with the client to determine the best possible design for the building, which is a focus of the university’s 200 Lees Campus. “We took into account their overall master plan for the campus,” said Senior Project Manager David Wroblewski. “We weren’t just focused on building the current building; We were looking at their future needs as well.”

That process resulted in the building being moved closer to the LRT tracks than was initially planned. Considering that two other buildings on the property will be demolished in due course, this redesign opened the property up and maximized its future potential.

Early collaboration also resulted in switching from the planned steel structure to a concrete one, giving the building a longer lifespan and helping to dampen noise and vibration between classrooms and research labs. 

The building includes a high-performance envelope, a reflective roofing membrane to reduce cooling loads and the heat-island effect, and a low window-to-wall ratio.

The efficient mechanical systems include high-efficiency condensing boilers and variable speed drives, heat recovery, smart controls and sub-metering. The electrical system includes 100% LEDs, daylight and occupancy sensors, a solar PV system and the option for a battery energy storage system.

Located beside the Rideau River, the new home for the Faculty of Health Sciences is a part of the University of Ottawa’s response to the acute shortage of health care professionals across the country. “Our students will have an advantage because they will be trained in settings that replicate the environments in which they’ll be working,” said Lucie Thibault, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Highlighted by the following features, the project is seeking LEED Platinum certification with expected approval in 2024:

  1. It has 108 new, covered bike slots to go along with 76 uncovered ones. Only 11 new parking spaces were built.
  2. Over 33% of the total site area is either wildflower meadow or reforestation plantings, providing habitat and promoting biodiversity. Landscaping consists of native species that are drought-tolerant, meaning no irrigation will be needed.
  3. The team installed a light-colored, reflective roof and light-colored pavers to reduce the heat-island effect.
  4. The property is night-sky compliant and bird friendly, using a backlight, uplight and glare (BUG) rating.

The team had to overcome all-too-familiar supply chain issues and five different strikes in Ontario among tradespeople and laborers.

With the help of the university, the team took a phased approach to permitting the project to keep it on track. “We broke up the permitting process,” said Wroblewski. “We got the demolition permit, then the excavation permit, then the superstructure permit, then the full building permit while waiting for the completed Site Plan Agreement.”

Thanks to client-focused collaboration and a team effort, faculty members, administrative personnel and students at the University of Ottawa now have modern, nimble spaces that will give future health leaders the hands-on skills they need to contribute to a robust health care system.

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