Monday, December 11, 2017

Multi-million-dollar Young Building repairs remain Camosun College priority

January 6, 2016 by Jayden Grieve, contributing writer

The Young Building is one of Camosun College’s most well-known landmarks, but it’s been in a state of disrepair for several years.

Students are unable to walk around the building, and there are canopies and large cement blocks surrounding it. These additions are there for the safety of those walking near Young, as concerns popped up after the last major renovation the college had done on the building.

“The most significant exterior upgrade was completed in 2000,” says Camosun director of facilities services Ian Tol. “Basically the entire facade of the building was pulled off, and you were only able to see columns and a roof; everything else was wide open, and all the walls were rebuilt at that time.”

After these restorations were complete, the building was given heritage status. But parts of the exterior of the building began to deteriorate, with some small pieces falling off. It was at this point that the school erected the fence around the building and canopies over the entrances that are still there today.

Camosun’s Young Building has temporary structures set up around it (photo by Greg Pratt/Nexus).

Camosun’s Young Building has temporary structures set up around it (photo by Greg Pratt/Nexus).

“Those canopies are intended to be temporary; they’re here to ensure safety for the users,” says Tol. “Our long-term goal is to fix the building. That would allow us to remove the canopies, but until we get to that point they have to stay up.”

Tol says a rough estimate to fix the building is over $10 million. In addition to this, the school is caught up in litigation with Farmer Construction, the company that worked on the parts of the building that Camosun claims are failing prematurely.

Farmer Construction declined to comment to Nexus for this story.

For the time being, Camosun has a contractor, Ken Johnson, examine the building twice a year to ensure that it is still safe, and to remove anything that is a potential threat. Johnson is a heritage conservationist who tells Nexus that after 10 examinations he’s noticed the state of the Young Building get worse.

Johnson’s initial report details the problems with the Young Building. It points out corroding steel, failing bonding, a window sill with a 1.5” gap on it, cracks in the moulding, a piece of the building that sounds loose and hollow, a window sill that is loose and moving, and more.

“It’s a wonderful building as a whole. Camosun obviously values it very highly,” says Johnson. “It would have been far easier for them to tear it down in 1999 and start again, but the building had such value to them that they decided to restore it.”

Camosun Nursing student Heather Hulett says she likes the building and hopes it’s repaired soon because it’s an inconvenience as is.

“The place where they’ve blocked the exit sucks,” says Hulett. “We have to go all the way around to get outside. Also, I used to sit on those steps to study because it overlooks the lawn.”

But Siobhan Strain, also a Nursing student, says that safety needs to come first.

“It’s more important to have the scaffolding up than the looks of the building itself,” says Strain, who describes Young as having a Hogwarts feel to it (Hogwarts is the school of magic in the Harry Potter series). “If it’s unsafe, then they should definitely be making it safe for people walking underneath.”

Even with an estimated $10 million price tag and an ongoing legal situation surrounding it, Camosun’s Tol says that getting the Young Building’s repairs dealt with is a priority.

“Fixing it is quite high on our priority list. It’s a building that we need, we are using it fully, and we don’t have other vacant space,” says Tol. “The Young Building is a heritage building and kind of a beautiful structure, so I agree that the canopies are definitely not something we want to keep on there. We’ll continue to monitor the condition of the building to ensure that it remains safe for use, and as long as it’s safe we’ll continue to use it.”

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