New building floors scientists

September 22, 2005, vol. 34, no. 2
By Barry Shell

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With the completion of the technology and science complex 1 (TASC1) the schools of computing science, resource and environmental management, and earth sciences have moved into their new offices, labs and classrooms.

Ask anyone what they think of the new high-tech building and they all say the same thing:what's with the unfinished concrete floors? Of nearly 20 people interviewed, not one person mentioned the beautiful clerestory windows, the natural wood paneling, the stunning views of the Fraser Valley, the quiet and efficient air conditioning, or the flexible telephone and data cabling system. They all talk about the dull and dusty floors.

“Since they view us all as techies, they must have thought all grey would be OK,” says computing science professor Brian Funt.

Joe Van Snellenberg, assistant to the dean of applied science, explains that polished concrete was chosen for a reason. “It's easier to keep clean. Carpet, being oil-based, is not environmentally friendly. It's hard to maintain, and hard on landfills,” he says. People with allergies appreciate a bare concrete floor, too.

Bill Nelson, development manager in facilities management, says, “In response to budget challenges as well as environmental, maintenance and longevity concerns, exposed sealed concrete floors were selected by the project team at the beginning of the design process.”

The new building is designed with future computing and communications expansion in mind. According to Patrick Hartney, project coordinator with campus planning and development, cabling is located in easy-access consolidation boxes above the drop ceiling panels.

“If you want to move your workstation from one side of the lab to the other, it's easy,” says Hartney. There are lots of spare cables already in place.

TASC1 incorporates many leading-edge, sustainable design elements. Thanks to careful placement of windows and lighting fixtures, the building uses about half the artificial lighting of a conventional building. Room sensors turn off lights and air conditioning depending on daylight and window position.

The air conditioner pulls air from a tunnel underneath the ground floor to get some free cooling. Rainwater runoff goes into special box culverts to minimize impact on natural mountain streams.

The building's exterior north wall is clad in a made-in-B.C. product called Keith panels.

They are fabricated to exacting dimensions from a plastic-aluminum laminate called Alucobond that resists expansion and contraction. They act as both a rain screen and insulating building envelope.

The same panels from this North Vancouver company went into the construction of the new Adidas U.S. corporate headquarters in Portland, Oregon, and many other buildings of architectural merit.

Indigenous materials help to blend the building into the landscape.

For instance, the ceilings are made of B.C. fir beams and spruce planking. A few old trees were saved in the landscaping and some heritage stumps were removed and replanted.

When asked what he likes most about TASC1, Nelson says, “It's an environmentally responsible design. It was designed as a benchmark for the many new buildings going up on campus.”

He's not worried about the floors.•

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