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Engineering building at McMaster University shows how times have changed

Exactly 50 years to the day after the first engineering building was opened on McMaster University's campus in...


Engineering Technology Building, McMaster University
Engineering Technology Building, McMaster University

Exactly 50 years to the day after the first engineering building was opened on McMaster University’s campus in Hamilton, Ontario, the university officially opened its new Engineering Technology Building. The John Hodgins Engineering Building opened on October 23, 1959, and the$48-million new engineering opened the same date this year.

The new Engineering Technology Buildings houses more than 2,000 students and staff. They are from the First-Year Engineering Program, the Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice, the McMaster School of Biomedical Engineering and the McMaster-Mohawk Bachelor of Technology Partnership. The building also houses the Centre for Research in Micro- and Nano-Systems.

Classrooms have digital projection and wireless internet. But perhaps more interesting is the use of an elliptical classroom. Two of these classrooms are contained in a funnel-shaped tower on the building’s west facade, one in the basement level and one on the main floor.

The elliptical classroom is one of only a few  in North America. The shape is intended to facilitate the interactions in the classroom, allowing the teacher to see and be seen by all.

The elliptical lab on the main floor is being used for teaching engineering design and graphics and engineering computation. It has 55 computer work stations and 28 instruction monitors so that the instructor can project images directly onto the students’ computer displays. The computer system is designed using a client-server model and “thin-client technology” to be  more environmentally friendly.

The building itself is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification. The mechanical systems are left exposed to allow the building to function as a learning example for the students. The sustainability features include rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation, the inclusion of local slag in the concrete, and a dual duct HVAC system that separates the ventilation from space heating and cooling functions. The mechanical systems are integrated with the building envelope and structure to incorporate the thermal mass of the structure as a heat sink.

The building’s design team is as follows: VermeulenHind (architect), Halcrow Yolles (structural), Vanderwesten Rutherford and Mantecon (mechanical & electrical), S. Llewellyn & Associates (civil), Enermodal engineering (LEED), Bird Construction (construction), Fleisher Ridout (landscape).

Artworks add to the building experience. A specially commissioned painting entitled “A History of Canadian Engineering” is displayed in the main hall, as is a “Living Legacy Showcase” which has collectibles and memorabilia from the past 50 years which have been donated by engineering faculty, alumni and friends. At the building entrance is a Chronos Clock, a five metre structure that represents the solar system and tells time by reading circles within circles. It was created by four engineering students and two arts students.