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Promoting Enrollment through Renovation

Tue, 06/09/2009 - 9:32am
Lindsay Hock
To help realize its goal of increasing enrollment in its chemistry program, Carleton Univ. combined its old chemistry laboratories into one Steacie SuperLab.
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Renovated laboratory benches and glazed fume hoods. Image: Tom Arban

The new Steacie SuperLab, Carleton Univ., (Ottawa, Ontario), was designed by HOK Architects Corp., Toronto, Canada to promote and increase enrollment in the university's chemistry program. Since prospective science students select a school because of the laboratories where they will spend a good deal of time, Carleton Univ. set a goal to renovate their four existing 1960s chemistry labs into new, improved laboratory space. They stripped away the shear walls that limited laboratory expansion, and eliminated the separate labs that could only hold five fume hoods—and maximum of 24 students—each.

2009 Lab of the Year logoFor consolidation and sustainability considerations, Carleton Univ.'s Steacie SuperLab has been awarded the 2009 R&D Magazine Laboratory of the Year Special Mention Award.

The new 14,500 ft2 SuperLab consolidated the four existing labs and is surrounded by a ring corridor. Upgrading from the 20 wooden fume hoods, the new SuperLab now houses 47 fume hoods and the safest equipment layout possible with barrier-free access. The ring corridor enhances the teaching environment with chalkboards on the walls for impromptu collegial discussion and modular preparation labs in one quadrant. The colors within the corridor are also bright and welcoming, consisting of red-orange, blues, and greens for a new, contemporary look. The laboratory also upgraded the maximum number of students from 96 to 120, while improving the safety of labs and limiting crowding.

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Steacie Superlab – Carleton University – Renovated Laboratory Benches and Presentation Wall

The laboratory safety systems were upgraded as well. New and safer eye washes and showers have been installed. The old fire alarm system was replaced, and visual alarm signals for hearing impaired were included. New smoke and heat detectors were also added to reduce false alarms.

 

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The old fume hoods, which lacked variable air volume and had poor air handling and energy usage have been replaced with new variable air volume fume hoods with automated sensors. Each hood accommodates two students. With these new fume hoods, air usage has decreased and air quality has been improved. New teaching fume hoods with glass panels have been added which provide users with an open feeling and allow teaching assistants and professors to have an uninterrupted view of students from anywhere in the lab.

The new lab is barrier-free for students in wheelchairs. The fume hoods have been lowered with no casework below, new doorways have been installed (four of which have automatic door openers), and there is a new barrier-free washroom.

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(Left) Existing laboratory benches and teaching wall. (Right) Renovated laboratory and teaching wall. Images: Tom Arban

As Richard Johnson, Lab of the Year judge and product director, strategic marketing, corporate alliances, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Two Rivers, Wis., points out, the university "reconsidered renovating before new construction, thus reducing the campus footprint." This can be seen in the materials selection for the SuperLab which adhered to sustainability considerations. The existing concrete slab and beam ceilings were patched and painted white, minimizing the use of new materials. The 6-mm epoxy flooring was applied in various shades of grey. Mechanical and electrical services for lab benches were dropped from the ceiling behind the fume hoods, which eliminated the need for service columns or core drilling. Also, a variable volume exhaust system allowed the existing fume exhaust system to be reused with minimal modifications.

"The ‘huge' transformation has increased the site visit by 40%, leading to increased recruitment and retention of the student population," says Johnson.

It seems like Carleton Univ.'s goal of bringing in more students to their chemistry program may be coming true; it has experienced a 10% increase in enrollment from the last year. Carleton Univ. can now be proud of its lab which can accommodate more students and allow for more courses to be offered than the original isolated labs had in the past.

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