Massive refit breathes new life into Macdonald Engineering

Spring 2010

A $25-million government-sponsored renovation is underway at the Macdonald Engineering Building. The massive infrastructure overhaul coincides with work on the building’s fifth floor to build state-of-the-art Integrated Laboratories in Environmental Engineering. That project is a gift from two alumni, husband-and-wife team Andrew Benedek, BEng’66, DSc’05, and Diana Mourato-Benedek, BSc ’81, MSc’83, PhD’90.

The government renovations form part of a $2-billion federal-provincial economic stimulus package to support science and technology initiatives at post-secondary institutions. Called the Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP for short), the funds will help to keep Canada’s research and educational facilities at the forefront of scientific advancement.

Improving facilities is a key factor in attracting world-calibre talent, and in the process the KIP program is creating jobs for local engineers, architects, tradespeople and technicians.

Striking improvements

KIP money comes with a major proviso, however; the entire $25-million project at McGill Engineering must be completed by spring 2011. The Benedeks’ laboratories, for their part, will officially open next month, in June 2010. As this issue of the Dean’s Report went to press, finishing touches were being made to the Benedeks’ ultra-modern facilities. A full report about the couple’s generous gift will be published in our next edition, in fall 2010.

The two departments that will benefit most from the government refit are Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics, but all students, faculty and staff who use the 104-year-old Macdonald Building will see dramatic improvements.

Electrical and mechanical systems will be upgraded to meet modern research and teaching standards, and ventilation will be extended and centralized to improve air circulation – particularly in laboratories. Most Macdonald Building laboratories will also be reconfigured and relocated to better suit their purpose.

A 200-ton crane lifts one of nine modular HVAC units that were assembled on the roof of the Macdonald Engineering Building to provide heating, ventilation and air conditioning for the 104-year-old edifice.

A 200-ton crane lifts one of nine modular HVAC units that were assembled on the roof of the Macdonald Engineering Building to provide heating, ventilation and air conditioning for the 104-year-old edifice.

A central atrium

No significant net space will be created by the year-long project, but KIP funds will correct major deficiencies in the building and make better use of existing space. The overhaul will also result in improved energy efficiency and ensure proper heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing services.

The structure collectively known as Macdonald Engineering is actually three separate buildings: a main pavilion and two adjoining wings – the Workman Wing and the Electrical Wing. Several floors of all three buildings will be gutted completely and entirely refitted.

A central atrium will also be installed in what is now an inaccessible inner courtyard between the Workman and Electrical wings. The atrium will include an elevator and provide easier access to the two smaller wings. After the refit, Macdonald Engineering will be wheelchair accessible.

Additional renovation features include a new mechanical room on the roof; a second mechanical room in the atrium; new stone steps for the front entrance; additional washrooms; centralized heating and air conditioning and a new, slate and copper roof.

McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and Faculty of Engineering Dean Christophe Pierre are grateful for the government support, but they point out that the funds only cover deferred maintenance – urgent repairs and upgrades that were put off for years because of government cutbacks.

In addition, none of the money can be used to replace aging equipment or purchase laboratory and office furnishings appropriate for the newly renovated space. “Those types of expenditures could easily top $1.5-million,” Professor Pierre says.

“The infusion of government funds for Macdonald is a good start, but we also have a long list of upgrades that students and professors need in our Faculty’s six other buildings.”

“It’s an ongoing concern, so we’ll continue working hard to garner additional support from government, alumni and industry partners to improve teaching and research facilities in every corner of the Faculty.”

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