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Building better law schools

|Written By Matt Powell
Building better law schools

While construction at one Canadian law school is almost done, another has just begun.

University of British Columbia’s law school has just started construction on its new facility. The walls of the old building came tumbling down on the morning of Feb. 2.

Plans have been underway since 2004, and now with the approval from the Board of Governors and an architectural plan in place, it’s moving ahead.

A massive excavator forced its metal jaws through an outside concrete wall of UBC’s law building — the first visible sign construction on the school’s new facility was underway.

“Although demolition has been underway for a while now to remove furniture, asbestos, and windows, today [Feb 2] was the first opportunity to see visible demolition as they knocked down an outside wall,” says Penny Elton, a UBC communications co-ordinator.

There was a small gathering of students, faculty, and alumni as the massive machine went to work on the old building. It had been in trouble since 1995 when an assessment revealed moisture and ventilation problems.

According to the university, the new facility will link the law faculty with courthouses and offices around the world, and will introduce a state-of-the-art law library to help serve as a “vital academic hub for students and the legal community.”

Elton says the projected cost of the facility is approximately $60 million, and will be financed through a combination of provincial and university resources, and private donations.

So far, private-sector funding has made commitments totalling $22 million of a $24-million fundraising goal.

Construction on the new building is to start on April 15 when the facility’s foundation will be poured.

In Toronto, construction on the new building at Osgoode Hall Law School started in September 2009, and according to communications manager Virginia Corner, it should be substantially completed by next month.

Naturally, there has been some classroom shuffling during the construction.

“Classes are continuing in the academic wing of our building, but everything else in the law school has been relocated to temporary space on the York campus,” says Corner. “A lot of classes are being held primarily in the Ross and technology-enhanced-learning buildings.”

According to the project’s overview on Osgoode’s web site, 192,050 square feet of the current 215,050-square-foot building has been renovated. That has meant substantial gutting, including most of the mechanical and electrical systems.

A 23,050-square-foot addition is being built over the main floor of the library, housing the office of student services, a new cafeteria, lounge, and the new Paul B. Helliwell Centre for Innovation in Dispute Resolution.

Osgoode’s legal aid department will also be relocated to the new addition, where the school hopes it will attract more clients as the new location makes it more accessible.

Funding for the renovation was announced last May, when the federal and provincial governments committed a $25-million investment under the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, according to the school’s web site.

  • Don Blakely
    They also forgot to mention the brand new construction of Canada's newest Law School in 34 years, namely the one being built at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops BC.
  • lawyer

    I agree with Nancy. I have visited and was very impressed with the new facilities at the U of S College of Law. That the new facilities incorporated "green" designs is also noteworthy.
  • Nancy
    I'm curious, why did you omit discussion of the University of Saskatchewan's brand new LEED law school? I would think that the construction of a "green" facility would be an important inclusion in an article entitled "Building Better Law Schools".