Burnaby campus construction roars ahead during pandemic
By Natalie Lim
This article is part of a story series that thanks frontline SFU staff for their work during COVID-19. You can read more stories here.
While most of the SFU community is working and learning from home due to COVID-19, SFU Facilities Services has been making the best of a difficult situation.
In late March, the B.C. government deemed construction work an “essential service". As a result, crews have been working through the pandemic on construction projects across SFU’s three campuses.
“COVID-19 has allowed us to expedite many of our projects," says Ian Abercrombie, director, campus planning and development. "But while we want to take advantage of this opportunity, our first duty is keeping staff, contractors and the SFU community safe.”
Contractors and staff continuing to work from campus are following COVID-19 safety procedures laid out by WorkSafe BC, including frequent hand-washing and physical distancing.
“The projects we’re working on, from upgraded educational facilities to vital maintenance and upkeep, will be something the community can look forward to upon their return to campus,” says Abercrombie.
Over the next few weeks, we’re taking a look at some of the facilities updates currently underway at each of SFU’s campuses—starting with three exciting projects on Burnaby mountain.
Plaza Renewal Phase 2
The AQ’s original plaza surface was laid in 1965 and designed to last 50 years. By the time the plaza renewal project started in late 2018, poor drainage on the tiling was causing leaks and large puddles, making the concourse difficult to navigate.
During Phase 1, the team installed new granite tiles, a waterproof membrane, ramps for better accessibility, and new landscaping and furniture in the AQ 4000 level and the stairs and walkways around Convocation Mall.
Phase 2, which will install similar upgrades in Convocation Mall, the Transportation Centre and Freedom Square, is scheduled for completion by December 2020.
One of this project’s biggest challenges has been scheduling construction activities while minimizing impacts on community members studying and working in nearby buildings. Remote teaching and learning during the spring and summer has made this balancing act much easier to manage.
“With fewer people on campus, we’re seeing fewer delays due to noise,” says George Venini, senior project manager. “We also planned on shutting down construction in Freedom Square to accommodate spring convocation ceremonies, but with ceremonies moved online, we were able to work through that period.”
Applied Sciences Building
The Applied Sciences Building (ASB) is currently undergoing renovations that are expected to finish in the fall of 2021. With upgrades such as improved laboratory spaces for students and a new, energy-efficient building envelope, this project will expand the Faculty of Applied Sciences’ teaching and research functions.
“Renovations to the ASB were given the green light in March,” says Gerald Gongos, senior project manager. “Beginning work at the onset of COVID-19 presented unique challenges, especially concerning the safety of team members working onsite. We’ve worked with our contractor and SFU Safety and Risk Services to set up many health and safety measures, from signage to wash stations.
“The tight construction schedule for the ASB means every day counts, but we’ve got a dedicated team working hard to deliver this project on time."
The SFU Stadium, which celebrated its groundbreaking last March, is now just months away from completion. The 1800-seat stadium will host an integrated sound system and broadcast and media facilities, among other features. James Bremner, project manager, has found COVID-19 both a help and hindrance when it comes to this project.
“We had a plan in place to minimize the impact of noisy work in April while students were writing final exams,” says Bremner. “Because students ended up writing exams from home, we did not have to implement that plan. On the other hand, COVID-19 has delayed the fabrication of some construction materials, which has slowed our progress.”
As this project draws to a close, we look forward to seeing the stadium in use once SFU’s athletics programs resume on the Burnaby campus.
Building for the future
While completing major construction projects is rewarding, Abercrombie says the real joy of construction work is seeing the community enjoy upgraded facilities.
“I’m excited about how the campus is being transformed, and even more excited to share our work,” he says. “Our teams have worked incredibly hard on these projects through the pandemic. When the community can safely return to Burnaby campus, I think everyone will be amazed at the positive change in such a short period of time.”
You can learn more about current construction and renovation projects at SFU on the Facilities Services website.