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Building on 200 years

If Dalhousie’s founders were alive today, they might be surprised to see just how much their “little college by the sea” has changed—particularly, the size and shape of its physical footprint.

While the university’s first cornerstone was laid nearly 200 years ago in an intimate corner of the Grand Parade in downtown Halifax, the Dalhousie of today spans a large swath of the city’s primary peninsula and stretches deep into the Nova Scotian heartland and even neighbouring New Brunswick with a satellite medical campus in Saint John.

This transformation began as far back as 1886 when Dal moved from its original downtown location (now home to Halifax City Hall) to a building in the city’s south end. Gradual expansion across what are now known as Carleton and Studley campuses followed and two substantial mergers over the last 20 years or so (the Technical University of Nova Scotia in 1997 and Truro’s Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 2012) have added some serious heft to Dal’s capital portfolio. But as the construction of more than a dozen new purpose-built facilities since the turn of the millennium shows, the university’s organic growth has continued at a steady pace in recent years—with several major capital projects reaching completion during this bicentennial year alone.

“Dalhousie is set to begin its third century bigger and better than ever before,” says Peter Coutts, Dal’s assistant vice-president of Facilities Management. “We have the teaching and research facilities necessary for success and inspiring physical campuses that support our mission. As we continue to grow, our Campus Master Plan will serve as our compass towards what’s next.”

IDEA Project

Dalhousie’s $64-million IDEA Project has revitalized the university’s downtown campus, solidifying its role as a hub of collaborative learning, design and innovation. Anchored by two new academic facilities, the campus sets a new standard for engineering, architecture and planning education, empowering students and researchers alike to make a lasting impact on Nova Scotia and, more broadly, the world. Located in the heart of Halifax’s burgeoning innovation district, Dal’s enhanced downtown campus elevates the university’s role as a key driver of economic and social development in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. Stunning upgrades to five existing facilities build on research strengths in sectors critical to our region’s economy, while facilities such as the Emera ideaHUB, new state-of-the-art workshops and labs throughout support design-centric curricula and innovation programming that connects students and faculty to industry.

The IDEA project is home to state-of-the-art workshops and labs (Danny Abriel photo)

The project, which reached completion in fall 2018, would not have been possible without the generous support of private donors, federal and provincial governments, corporate donors and partners, Dal students and alumni.  “The IDEA Project is a testament to what’s possible when different groups rally around a shared vision that benefits all,” says John Newhook, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering.

“The IDEA Project is a testament to what’s possible when different groups rally around a shared vision that benefits all,” says John Newhook, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. (Danny Abriel photo)

Dalplex Fitness Centre expansion

This $23.3-million addition to Dal’s recreation and fitness facilities features one of the largest cardio and strength-training rooms in Halifax, beautiful new multipurpose fitness rooms, and new accessible lockers and change rooms. Opened for service in May  2018, the modern, light-filled expansion adds 57,000 square feet of climate-controlled space to existing Dalplex facilities, further empowering students, staff, faculty and others to make physical health and overall wellness a priority.

Dalplex Fitness Centre has added 57,000 square feet of space to existing facilities. (Danny Abriel photo)

At the centre of it all is a large, open-concept fitness hall on the second floor that triples the amount of cardio and strength-training equipment on offer. A dedicated high-performance training area on the ground floor ensures athletes from Dal’s 14 varsity and 26 club teams can also get the focused workout they need while preserving other space for general Dalplex members and students alike. “We are better equipped to meet traffic at peak times,” says Tim Maloney, Dal’s director of Athletics. “That means less waiting, more space, more freedom, more comfort as you work out.”

The technology-equipped fitness studios provide plenty of airy space for group workouts, fitness seminars and presentations. Quiet and contained, these multipurpose rooms are also a welcome addition for devotees of yoga and other fitness disciplines. The fitness centre also provides a bright new entryway to all the other Dalplex facilities members have come to appreciate, including freshly renovated fieldhouse courts, a pool, racquet courts, climbing wall and more.

Biomass Plant, Student Learning Commons and Bicentennial Garden (Agricultural Campus)

A new $24-million biomass heating plant completed this year on the Agricultural Campus near Truro stands out as a beacon of sustainable-energy generation at Dalhousie. Swapping an aging wood-fired boiler and steam lines for a system that burns a wider range of locally sourced biomass products (from sawmill residue to farm-based waste), generates electricity with a turbine, and uses hot-water heat distribution, the new plant provides the campus with a far more reliable and sustainable source of heat and energy.

“The new plant is a major step towards our aspirations for this campus to be completely carbon neutral,” says David Gray, dean of the Faculty of Agriculture. “It also aligns well with a number of our research areas in renewable energy and will provide opportunities for us to put research into practice.”

LEFT The Ag Campus’s new $24-million biomass heating plant is a beacon of sustainable energy generation. RIGHT The opening of the Bicentennial Gardens this summer cements the Ag Campus’s reputation as a destination for botanical garden lovers. (Danny Abriel, Nick Pearce)

The Ag Campus also saw the opening of the long-awaited Student Learning Commons on the top floor of the MacRae Library, an ideal space for students looking to study and socialize outside the more formal classroom environment. Designed as an open-concept space with an abundance of natural light, glass and colours, the revamped building offers a unique mix of academic library services, student collaboration space and other amenities including a self-serve café, an intercultural room, meditation space, gender-neutral washrooms, hand and foot washing stations, and a living wall.

As well, the opening of the Bicentennial Gardens this summer elevated the Ag Campus’s reputation as a destination for botanical garden lovers. The addition of an outdoor classroom and an alpine house filled with rare plants benefit students, faculty and the public.

Dentistry Clinic Renewal

Oral health education at Dalhousie entered an exciting new era in 2018 with the completion of a $28-million clinic renewal project. The major renovations offer all dentistry and dental hygiene students the opportunity to learn in state-of-the-art, world-class facilities.

Celebrating the opening of the Dr. William Murphy Dental Clinic are (L-R) Elder Geri Musqua-LeBlanc, Lisa Murphy, Dr. Ben Davis, Karen Spaulding, Dr. Richard Florizone, Kristen Gamache (Nick Pearce photo)

The Dr. William Murphy Dental Clinic, named after the late Bill Murphy (DDS’56), also boosts the Faculty of Dentistry’s capacity to provide care to the community. An estimated 6,000 individuals annually receive care through the Faculty’s dental clinics. With the upgrades, students are now able to offer improved oral health-care service to even more patients, building on more than a century of outreach work.

Bright lighting, restful colours and increased accessibility define the space, making for a comfortable learning environment. New features include the student group practice model for clinic operations, a simulation lab and an enhanced clinic. Together, these features enable students to use the latest techniques with the latest equipment, carry out cutting-edge research and simulate real-life dental practice.

“This project has strengthened our pre-clinical program, enriched our undergraduate experience and expanded opportunities for our graduate students. Most significantly, the renewal has allowed us to provide our patients with the best possible oral health care,” says Ben Davis, the faculty’s dean.

Beyond 200

Planning is underway for the development of an engaging new public space on Studley Campus to honour the university’s 200th anniversary. With funding from the Province of Nova Scotia’s active transportation initiative Connect 2, the Bicentennial Common will be designed to enrich the Dal community and general public with functional, pedestrian-oriented public space that encourages physical activity and active transportation.