The ExCEL initiative has headed into its next stage of development. On Jan. 20, Agnes Kaznierczak, an architect at Diamond Schmitt Architects, presented the firm’s initial designs for the Hatch Centre to a group of McMaster Engineering students and faculty and revealed the first renderings of the building.
“We just finished schematic design so we’re moving into design development, which basically entails choosing the actual materials and the specifics of more engineering-related things,” said Ryan Rogers, the McMaster Engineering Society VP of External Affairs.
The Hatch Centre itself will attach to the back of the existing John Hodgins Engineering building and will share a variety of its facilities, including the Fireball Café and loading docks, while maintaining the ability to operate independently from JHE.
Kaznierczak’s presentation showed the variety of spaces the new building would contain, including a double-height build space that will house large-scale student projects with offices overlooking the space below. She also showed the numerous student meeting areas, club offices, and the suite that will be occupied by student services. Kaznierczak described the Hatch Center as “robust, elegant, and honest about what it needs to be.”
On the surface the project seems to be progressing well, but there are underlying issues. According to Rogers, the initiative is still within its budget, but that comes with the sacrifice of a number of the proposed eco-friendly features.
“A lot of the big issue with including eco-friendly features was we had to find a balance between the actual functionality of the building versus making it the most innovative and eco-friendly building in Canada,” said Mitchell Kurnell, Director of Public Relations with the McMaster Engineering Society.
He added that eco-friendly features such as solar panels could be installed later, but that the plan to install triple-glazed windows to maximize energy efficiency has not changed.
Despite the compromises on the eco-friendly side of the construction, Rogers was adamant that there have been no changes to the experiential learning features promised in the proposal.
“We’re still going to have visible structures, visible heating and cooling elements, as well as panels basically describing the functionality and the actual process that went towards creating the final product,” he said.
While all parties involved with the ExCEL initiative hope to please as many students and faculty members as possible, concerns have been raised over the course of the project.
“Students have big concerns over whether they will have a say in how the building operates later,” Rogers said. But he explained that the MES is finalizing a plan to have a board composed of Engineering faculty members and students to manage the building together.
“The only [faculty concern] that has come up is who’s going to be moving to the third floor of the ExCEL building, but that was decided through various council meetings and the faculty basically agreed with who we, as a council, decided we wanted to see go into the building,” Kurnell said.
The only faculty members being housed in the Hatch Center will be those who benefit the all of the 4,000 students within the Faculty of Engineering.
The ExCEL initiative has always focused on enhancing the student experience, but if students have questions about the Hatch Center, Rogers promised, “students can always come to us. That’s our job.”