Walking through Royal Roads University’s (RRU) new centre for environmental science and international partnership, the past and present feel very much alive.
From the outside, the sturdy wood frame and white walls stand tall and are a reminder of the Dunsmuir family that once lived on the property in the early 1900s.
Stepping into the building is like walking into the 21st century. Windows stretch from the floor to the ceiling, letting light stream in and students work diligently on laptops and lounge in green and blue chairs.
“This is both an environmental science building, but it’s also an international and cross-cultural centre,” said RRU president Allan Cahoon of the recently-opened building. “With this space, we’re actually putting students, programs, labs, faculty, administration all here.”
The state-of-the-art facility, called the Sherman Jen building, is the university’s first named building. Located near the recreation centre, the building will become home for on-campus undergraduate programs in a wide range of fields including environmental science, tourism, and business and international student programs.
The heritage building-turned learning space spans more than 4,800 square metres, while the brand new south wing adds roughly 1,800 square metres of space. The Sherman Jen building includes 11 digitally-integrated classrooms, advanced laboratories and teaching spaces, office spaces, a coffee shop, and a new hub.
In addition, the building also reduces the university’s environmental footprint. Features include smart technology window glass, which adjusts its tint level to block glare, UV radiation and solar overheating of spaces; lighting controlled by motion sensors in classrooms, offices and washrooms; electrical outlets that turn off when a space is unoccupied; as well as a boiler that provides 98 per cent energy efficiency.
Those features are expected to save roughly 1,230 gigajoules in total energy – the equivalent of saving about 200 barrels of oil each year – and reduce 44 tonnes of total carbon emissions every year.
“We need something that innovative,” Cahoon explained. “We don’t have departments, we don’t have disciplines, we have schools and interdisciplinary, we use technology – things that are relevant. Having a building should be able to reflect what you say you’re doing.”
Originally built in 1914, the building was used by the Dunsmuir family first as a stable and then as a garage. Over the years, what was formerly called the Mews building was used by Royal Roads Military College and then by the university as a classroom, conference and office facility.
Renovations on the century-old building began two years ago and was funded through the federal government’s post-secondary institutions strategic investment fund, the province and a $7-million donation from philanthropist Sherman Jen, for whom the building is named after.
Despite the renovations, the building still has connections to its storied past.
Nearly 60 per cent of the total floor area is made up of the existing wood frame structure. The windows were also built using panes from the previous windows.