Two years and $64 million after they were announced, Dalhousie University hosted a grand opening for its two newest buildings Wednesday.
The IDEA Project, which includes the Richard Murray Design Building and the Emera IDEA Building, brings the Sexton campus a commodity it was severely lacking in recent memory: space.
“There’s a lot more study space, that was a big issue, there wasn’t always enough space, it was really cluttered at the beginning, but now with all this expansion there’s a lot more space for us to work, actually on this campus,” said Sierra Sparks, a third-year electrical engineering student.
“Instead of going off campus between classes we can stay on the campus, you know, catch up with friends, [and] work collaboratively.”
The majority of the funding comes from the federal government, who paid half the price tag through the post-secondary institutions and strategic infrastructure fund. Emera and Ricahrd Murray, an engineering alumnus, donated $10 million and $6 million, respectively. Other donors include Irving Oil’s $1.5 million contribution to build a large auditorium in the design building, Marjorie Lindsay, who also chaired the fundraising committee, as well as Micco Companies and Clearwater.
Students also saw increased fees in order to raise the money necessary for the new facilities.
Dalhousie president Richard Florizone said the building provides the university with a variety of different spaces that will help its technical programs continue to grow and achieve its goals of teaching, research and service.
“We knew in teaching we needed a greater quantity of space for the growth of the program, and we knew we needed to change the type of space. For research, we wanted to outfit new labs for faculty engaged in great research like in areas of clean-tech that are emerging and need new spaces and new technologies,” he said.
“We wanted to have space where we could foster entrepreneurship and innovation but also labs and workshops where we can support partnerships with local industry and continue to grow that important service. So it really has been a critical project that supports all dimensions of the university’s mission.”
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While much of the announcement centred around Halifax’s emergence as a so-called “innovation hub,” for students, who often attended classes off campus due to space restraints, the buildings are a much needed home.
“We will basically be living here,” said architecture student Katie Kirkpatrick. “This building becomes our home and it becomes the place where every idea we have is tested, and some of which will come to fruition, it is where we will make some of our strongest connections as students and as future members of our respective professions.”
“I can’t say it enough, this is our home. This campus, these buildings, and for us that’s really what it’s about.”
The project made headlines last fall for causing classroom disruptions, but now that they are able to see the finished project, both agree that the temporary pain was worth it.
Florizone said he’s received positive feedback from students, despite some of the frustrations over the construction process.
“Everything I’ve heard so far is people are thrilled,” he said. “I think current students see the benefits, they see why we did this, and students were the ones who started this all, really. They voted with their feet and their pocket books around saying they needed improved space, so we’ve delivered it.”
Kirkpatrick said that it became clear early in her degree that improvements to the campus were necessary.
“Ultimately it comes down the fact that students recognized from the first moment of our architecture program how important being able to work collaboratively with our classmates and as well with our professors and we make the best of what we have but the opportunity to really sort of spread our wings and expand on those opportunities has really been an exciting thing to see come to fruition,” she said.
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