Network comes first at Toronto waterfront campus

When you create a building as dependent on the network as George Brown College’s waterfront campus is, that network has to be complete, tested, up and running before the doors open.

“Integrated systems in building construction don’t just happen,” said Terry Comeau, executive director of waterfront campus development during a tour of the still-under-construction campus on Queen’s Quay in Toronto.
The tour was part of Cisco Systems Inc.’s Smart Cities Toronto event, showcasing intelligent building design projects in the Toronto area.

The campus will house George Brown’s health sciences program, and the project has been nine years in the making. It’s scheduled to open for the school year beginning in September.

The building is designed to foster interprofessional learning, said the program’s dean, Lorie Shekter-Wolfson, who is also assistant vice-president of waterfront campus development. Health care is a collaborative endeavour across many disciplines, yet often, information isn’t shared well among team members treating a patient, she said.

The seven-storey campus is built around a number of features aimed at fostering that collaborative education:

* Three “learning landscapes,” non-bookable spaces set up for group work, located in the concourse and on the third and seventh floors;

* The two lecture rooms adapt the tradition tiered layout by doubling the number of rows per tier and using rotating seats so students can face each other over a full-size desk surface.  The halls will feature pairs of large multimedia screen to connect to other faculties and allow live online learning;

* A fourth floor simulation suite with a group/debrief/observation room and a simulated operating theatre to familiarize nursing students with an OR environment. Lifelike mannequins operated by technicians in another room speak and even go into cardiac arrest.

* Wi-Fi blankets the campus and extends to a nearby park and even over the water near the building.

Comeau said the college partnered with Cisco and developer EllisDon to achieve “a huge degree of building automation.
That required the developer to push for non-proprietary equipment on the network, said Michael Wolf, chief integrator for EllisDon. Because every element  — mechanical, electrical, building control, computer network – had to be preconfigured, suppliers including Honeywell and Fifth Light were forced into Internet protocol-based systems wherever possible. The entire network was assembled and tested in a laboratory environment, pulled apart, then rebuilt, he said.

“The building can’t work unless the network is running,” Wolf said.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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