University of Western Ontario: Summer construction paves way for enhanced learning, working spaces

Western’s campus is being transformed this summer with a number of construction projects that will highlight the natural beauty of campus and add leading-edge learning spaces.

Work over the coming months includes enhancements to the landscape west of the Music Building and north of the International & Graduate Affairs Building (IGAB), as part of Western’s Open Space Strategy. It will include a rain garden, mixed seating and gathering spaces, similar to the work completed along Kent North last fall.

Expected to be completed by September, this project will also focus on creating barrier-free amenities, said Fred Janzen, director of capital projects.

“All the new paths will be fully accessible. This area is going to contribute to the beauty of campus and expand functional outdoor spaces for everyone,” said Janzen.

Launched in 2018, the Open Space Strategy is designed to accommodate future growth and create outdoor space that augments mobility across campus and prioritizes pedestrian and cyclist safety.

In addition to this work, construction on two new buildings continues this summer:

Ronald D. Schmeichel Building for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The new, 100,000-square-foot Ronald D. Schmeichel Building for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will house a state-of-the art, active learning classroom; a maker space equipped with 3D printers, metalworking, machinery and woodworking tools; and a digital lab. With geothermal wells, a green roof and natural lighting, this will be Western’s first net-zero energy building. Located between the Law Building and Weldon Library, this building is expected to be completed in 2023.

Indigenous Learning Space

The 10,000-sq.-ft. former Faculty of Education library is being transformed into a home for Indigenous students and Indigenous programming at Western. It will be a place for people to connect and share a common interest in advancing Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation. Western’s Indigenous Food and Medicinal Garden will be relocated here and an outdoor classroom with ceremonial space will be created. Construction is well underway with completion expected later this summer.

Work to enhance two key student-focused facilities is also underway:

Western Student Recreation Centre

A deep energy retrofit project (DERP) will increase the efficiency of the building’s systems including heating the pool with reclaimed waste energy. It will also use reclaimed energy to help with heating and cooling of other areas across campus. This, and future DERPs, will contribute significantly to Western’s commitment of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Weldon Library

The first phase of the revitalization of Weldon Library is nearing completion. This phase of the library master plan includes the completion of new workspace on the fifth floor, creation of a learning commons on the mezzanine, and renovations to the main and the lower floors. Building systems have been updated and the windows and skylights have been replaced with triple-pane windows, resulting in more natural lighting.

Other capital projects – such as renovations to Thompson Arena, updates and renovations to residences, creation of new teaching and research labs, classroom upgrades, as well as repairs to Western’s sidewalk network, roads and parking lots – will make for a busy construction season on campus, said Janzen.

“The work ahead is a massive but necessary undertaking and will undoubtedly contribute to the strategic vision of the university by providing a safe, beautiful and accessible campus for all,” said Janzen.