Unprecedented construction worth $62.4 million is boosting the size of Lambton College by about one-third.
The rising buildings and renovated spaces are changing the look of the Sarnia campus and, more importantly, the learning experience of students, says college President Judy Morris.
The investment is introducing “real life” learning with simulation labs and equipment and will ultimately boost student enrolment, she said.
“It’s transformative. We’re changing the landscape.”
Two buildings — the NOVA Chemicals Health & Research Centre and an adjacent Athletic & Fitness Complex — are taking shape on the campus’ north side. Together they cost $48.2 million.
College officials took reporters on a recent tour of the construction zone and to the south end where a $14.2-million renovation and expansion is underway at the Centre of Excellence in Energy & Bio-Industrial Technologies.
“People are commenting on the architectural detail of the new buildings,” said Morris as she entered what will be the student fitness centre and its 30-foot, floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
“The size and shape of the roof lines are drawing a lot of attention.”
Rising above the new buildings is a 67-foot tower whose lights will ensure the college stands out in the night sky.
The 40,000-square-foot athletics complex is expected to open in September with a double gymnasium and seating for 1,240.
Glass walls and high ceilings dominate the design of the buildings and will provide plenty of natural light, said Brent Thomas, director of facilities management.
Some of the enormous window installations have been delayed. Hurricane repairs in the U.S. last fall took priority and suppliers say all the glass needed at the college isn’t available yet, Thomas said.
Instead, some window spaces are temporarily boarded over. But contractor Southside Construction of London is progressing well, he said.
The college’s existing gym, which accommodates a couple hundred spectators, will be used as an academic lab for programs like police, fire and sports and rec.
Adjacent to the athletics complex, the 60,000-square-foot health and research centre is taking shape but won’t be ready for another year.
As health-related programs such as nursing, massage therapy, paramedics and PSW (Personal Support Workers) grew over the years, classrooms and labs were fit in where space was available throughout the school.
The new building will consolidate those programs and feature a 12-bed nursing lab and four-bed ICU lab to simulate real working conditions, said Morris.
“You’re seeing a lot of bricks and mortar but it really is about the future for teaching and learning,” she said.
On track to open in September 2018, the newly renovated Centre of Excellence in Energy & Bio-Industrial Technologies will set Lambton College apart from every other Canadian college, according to Morris.
“We have been rated #3 of 110 Canadian colleges for applied research,” she said. “This is where industry comes to life.”
The Centre of Excellence has about 1,000 students enrolled in programs like CPET (Chemical Production and Power Engineering Technology) and instrumentation.
The college anticipates more enrolment in the trades when the new labs open, said Marg Dragan, vice president of finance and administration.
“These programs have a lot of appeal, particularly now with the NOVA announcement (to build a new plant),” she said.
“We think there will be an uptick in enrolment.”