October 2016

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OCTOBER 2016 | 73 Centre for Applied Technologies – NAIT PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY NORTHERN ALBERTA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Centre for Applied Technologies – NAIT by PETER STENNING G rowing the student roster is the goal of any institute of higher learning, and the recent completion of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology's (NAIT) new $260-million, five-storey Centre for Applied Technologies (CAT), which can accommodate 5,000 students, allows for enrollment to be increased 50 percent in health, business, engineering technologies, and sustainable building and environmental management programs. Equally important, CAT, which was first conceived a decade ago, represents a crossroads in the campus's evolution. It will eventually be followed by a massive expansion that will see the 65-acre Edmonton campus almost double in size, with CAT overlooking more new buildings and an elaborate linear quad. John Engleder, associate VP facilities for NAIT, describes CAT's appearance as "polytechnic in the best sense of the word." So it's ironic to consider that had a change of administration not occurred during the project's long gestation period, students today would have been welcomed by a collegial gothic structure. "That was the initial vision," says Engleder, "something reminiscent of an old world European university facility." The transition from gothic to modernistic – which occurred after the gothic design had been fully completed, is something Stantec Architecture principal Leo Lejeune describes as "a wild ride. Circumstances resulted in the new design still being worked out after ground broke on the project's first design, and we were literally asking Clark Builders, 'What do you need next, and when?'" CAT's modern labs, advanced simulation studios and common areas are intended to enhance the NAIT student experience. A broad, main- floor concourse opens up the centre of the building to a wood ceiling six storeys above and connects to an atrium: an ideal location for events. The facility fits snugly into a triangular lot and, although following polytechnic design principles, has many striking features reminiscent of art deco: stately multi-storey vertical rows of glazing, with the concourse "spine" thrusting out as a central rectangular mass echoed by similar, smaller rectangular protuberances. Targeted to be LEED Silver, CAT boasts energy efficient windows, LED lighting throughout and innovative strip lighting (designed by WSP/MMM Group), low-maintenance landscaping (provided by Stantec) that will eventually extend as the new campus's quad and roofing that reflects heat and lowers interior temperatures in warmer months. "Additionally, we earned additional LEED points by achieving a construction waste recycling of more than 98 percent," says Engleder. It's hard to imagine a gothic structure on the same site, but that's what NAIT's executive team originally envisioned in 2006, and this idea was carried through by Stantec when the architects were retained in 2009 to design CAT, and later in 2012 to develop the campus master plan for an additional 60 acres that the institute is negotiating to acquire on the adjacent former airport lands. Lejeune recalls, "We developed the gothic design between 2009 and 2011, and then there was a two year break during which funding for the project was obtained and we shifted our focus to the master plan. Significantly, we hosted many staff and student visioning sessions to generate ideas for the expanded campus, and overwhelmingly we were told that new buildings on the campus should be modern and forward-looking." Engleder continues, "In 2011 NAIT got a new president, and based on this stakeholder feedback as well as his own preferences, he decided CAT should have a more polytechnic look. So we researched what a polytechnic look should consist of, had Stantec develop new architectural guidelines as part of the campus master plan, and Stantec used this to completely change the look of the building, while keeping the same footprint." To say this was a challenge would be an understatement. "We had to consider each architectural element," says Lejeune. "For example, what would have been flying buttresses got flattened to a modern expression on the exterior. Inside, the changes came sequentially and all during construction: a food court took the place of classroom space; a proposed health clinic was repurposed as classrooms; a fully designed simulation centre was relocated; and what would have been suites for the new president and staff became a large study area and food services space." Most significantly, sequestered offices were reconfigured into an open space office concept. While an abundance of glazing would be a primary feature of the new structure (both for esthetic and practical purposes, in order to fill the interior with as much natural light as possible), Stantec incorporated traditional touches, such as stone panels and other masonry for an element of warmth. Given that design work would continue one year into the construction phase of the project, structural engineers Read Jones Christoffersen and Clark Builders spent the latter part of 2013 and a portion of 2014 creating the concrete structure of the facility, with Stantec feeding the builders critical design elements as soon as they were ready. Lejeune says, "Construction was split into four quadrants, and typically the Clark team would tell us, 'We need drywall drawings for quadrant two, level two, in x number of days.' That's how the building got built: like an enormous jigsaw puzzle. We would sketch drywall detailing, Clark would mock it up on site, and if it was approved, it would be the template throughout the building. "On the one hand, this approach was nerve-wracking and seat-of- the-pants delivery, but it was also undeniably exhilarating – in no small way made successful because our relationships with Clark and NAIT stretch back many years, and we communicate well with one another." By September of 2014, about 14,000 cubic metres of concrete had been poured, nearly 7,000 cubic metres of backfill had been brought in and over 160,000 kilograms of steel had been erected. By the spring of 2015, over 350 workers (many of whom were NAIT alumni completing their apprenticeship training) had completed all four quadrants of the facility. Doug Wenck, project manager for Clark Builders, says of the alumni: "During our site orientations, we asked all the workers if they were NAIT grads and if they were, we gave them a special sticker for their hard hats stating that they were 'Proud NAIT Grads.' It made them feel proud to work on such an important project for the school they graduated from." NAIT president and CEO Glenn Feltham calls CAT "an extraordinary building that will provide an outstanding environment for both students and staff." As far as Engleder is concerned, "It's a fantastic example of how professionals at the top of their game can work under extreme circumstances to create something that exceeded our best expectations. This is truly a milestone for the campus." A LOCATION 11762 106 St NW, Edmonton, Alberta OWNER/DEVELOPER Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) ARCHITECT/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT/ MECHANICAL/CIVIL CONSULTANT Stantec GENERAL CONTRACTOR Clark Builders STRUCTURAL CONSULTANT Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd. ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT WSP/MMM Group Ltd. TOTAL SIZE 555,000 square feet TOTAL COST $260 million 2:39 PM 2:45 PM 5:29 PM

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