First New Building in Decades Rises at RRU

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They moved the road over, rearranged the parking and now the $22 million Learning and Innovation Centre is rising on the hillside at Royal Roads University.

It’s the first new building in decades at RRU, which has had to make do with the leftovers when Ottawa closed the old military college in 1995.

“It’s the first purpose-built facility for Royal Roads University,” says president Allan Cahoon, who describes the LIC as a “signature entry” building for the university.

The LIC is meant to be a gateway and, according to RRU’s InRoads alumni newsletter, its “strong central towers, concrete-faced masonry and punched windows” will echo the century-old Hatley Castle and the 1940 Grant building.

RRU intends the building to make a statement about its philosophy as well.

“We’re using it as a catalyst to walk the talk around sustainability,” says Cahoon. The LIC will use rainwater for flushing toilets, and fits the modern RRU campus plan that encourages people to walk.

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LIC is not a mere addition to existing buildings, but will be a freestanding structure a short distance uphill from the Grant building.

However, architects Jensen Chernoff Thompson have designed a glass “skywalk” connecting the ground floor to Grant’s top level. The pedestrian bridge will be built if more funding comes through.

The B.C. government provided an initial $15 million for the LIC and the university is raising the rest. Royal Roads is more than a third of the way through a $100-million capital campaign.

In place of the twin parking lots that flanked the steep entrance road, cars will now have several smaller level areas with landscaping to suggest the look and feel of “parking within a park,” according to InRoads.

The road was moved over to the edge of the forest and is meant to keep the character of a “country estate lane,” from the time when James Dunsmuir assembled his 800-acre Hatley estate above Esquimalt Lagoon in Colwood.

The LIC will be almost 31,000 square feet on three floors, with a phase two built at a later date adding 50 per cent more space.

Cahoon says the building will aim to be cutting edge for the university’s mid-career learners. “We’re trying to integrate the latest learner technology platforms,” he says. It is to be a “learning commons.”

The design incorporates a central atrium that will let lots of natural light into the larger-than-usual classrooms, and “syndicate” or breakout rooms for smaller groups. The LIC will be big enough to incorporate nine of the university’s normal student intakes, each one a 50-person “cohort.”

The LIC building’s height has been held to three floors, (although there’s a fourth level on the downhill side beside Grant) meaning most of the roofline will not be visible from the top of RRU’s landmark Hatley Castle downhill. Even from the beach by the lagoon, the castle will still be the prominent landmark.

Another positive feature is that the LIC will mask the service area at the back of the Grant building, the truck loading bays, dumpsters and trash cans.
The new building, to be constructed to LEED gold standard, is expected to be finished late in 2010 with the first learners using the building in early 2011.