York University to build $50.5 million School of Continuing Studies building

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GTA Construction Report staff writer
York University says it will build a new $50.5 million School of Continuing Studies building on its Keele campus.

The university plans to break ground on the project in 2019 so it can move classes into the new building in 2021.

Architect Perkins + Will won a design competition for project design services. The university says construction tendering will follow final design.

An early design concept and budget estimate indicates a building sized at 9,000 sq. m., with 39 classrooms, student lounges and social spaces, private work and breakout spaces, as well as space for 150 staff and instructors. It will be situated at the corner of The Pond Rd. and James Gillies St., just south of the Bennett Centre for Student Services and close to the new York University TTC Station.

The School of Continuing Studies was established three years ago, bringing together continuing professional education programs and English language support at York to form one of the largest Schools in Canada.

“The creation of a new, stand-alone home for our School of Continuing Studies is another important step forward in improving access to post-secondary education at York,” said president and vice-chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “This new building will enable us to create even more lifelong learning opportunities, build connections with local and international communities, and help students of all ages and backgrounds to achieve their fullest potential.”

The School of Continuing Studies houses the largest English language institute of any university in Canada. Nearly one-third of all international students who began their studies at York last year started with English academic preparation through the school.

With significant growth in its certificate programs, classroom space is also a significant challenge for the school’s continuing professional education programs. Working with senior executives from Toronto’s leading employers, the school develops accelerated programs which efficiently prepare graduates to fill critical skills shortages in the technology and business sectors including data analytics, cyber security, risk management, machine learning and other emerging fields. It has ambitious plans to launch several new programs each year to address what the World Economic Forum has called the skills gaps crisis of the “4th Industrial Revolution.

“This building is critical to expand access to the English-language university pathways that support international students and new Canadians, and innovative continuing education to support young professionals and employees to meet the rapidly evolving demands of the workplaces of tomorrow,” said Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly, assistant vice-president, continuing studies.

The school held a design competition, through which three architectural firms were shortlisted to present design concepts for the purpose of the competition, and to provide preliminary costing estimates.

The three firms – HOK, Gow Hastings Architects with Henning Larsen, and Perkins+Will – were asked to consider how to integrate the building with the existing campus community, pedestrian and bicycle usage, as well as to consider sustainability strategies such as the use of structural cross-laminated timbers, natural light, wind, solar or geothermal technologies, and a LEED gold minimum standard.

Recognizing that the building will occupy a gateway site to the university, the firms were requested to consider the aesthetic impact to the public. The design will further consider the possibility of achieving a net-zero standard, with the objective of minimizing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, a theme central to Ontario’s greenhouse gas reduction program. Finally, the building will reflect York University’s focus on accessibility, and will incorporate current and leading accessibility design practices.

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