Plans completed for new student residence, community centre at Trinity College

Lawson Centre for Sustainability will include classrooms, office and event spaces, space
Rendering of Lawson Centre for Sustainability, Trinity College. COURTESY OF MECANOO ARCHITECTEN AND RDH ARCHITECTS INC.
Rendering of Lawson Centre for Sustainability, Trinity College. COURTESY OF MECANOO ARCHITECTEN AND RDH ARCHITECTS INC.

Construction of a new residence building at Trinity College was recommended at the May 7 Planning and Budget Committee meeting. The Lawson Centre for Sustainability, a four-storey building at Trinity College, will be both a residence space and a hub for teaching and community bonding, with a focus on sustainability. The building gets its name from a $10 million donation from alumni Brian and Joannah Lawson, the highest single donation in Trinity College’s history, which will fund the building alongside investments from Trinity, fundraising, and external loans. 

The current timeline anticipates that construction will begin in February 2021, and the building will be operational by spring 2023. Construction of the centre is not expected to disrupt campus activities greatly, since the site is separated from currently used buildings.

Shortage of student housing

Due to increasing enrollment — especially growing numbers of international and out-of-province students — the demand for student housing has heightened in recent years. Existing residence spaces can house 25 per cent of Trinity’s students and contain limited communal areas for commuting students. The new building will provide more study areas and student lounges.

Trinity Assistant Provost Jonathan Steels commented on this lack of space in an interview with The Varsity. “We see very high demand from our upper-year students in particular, which we then need to balance against our first-year guarantee.” To help with this, the Lawson Centre will provide residence spaces for an additional 352 students. 

Accessibility needs have been considered in the development process as well. Fifteen per cent of the residence units will be barrier free, each with a 2.5 metre turning radius. Additionally, all public and residence washrooms will be gender-neutral.

Sustainability initiatives

Equipped with solar panel arrays, geothermal heating and cooling capabilities, and a rooftop garden, according to Steels, the Lawson Centre hopes to provide an environment in which “sustainability will become everybody’s experience, in one way or another.”

The building will include a multipurpose community kitchen, which will encourage engagement in sustainability through academic programming. The goal is to create ecological awareness and provide hands-on experience with skills such as environmentally friendly food preparation.

A separate, full-scale kitchen will service both a new dining hall and the existing one at Strachan Hall.

The building developments will be funded by college investment and donations, but the building has measures in place to generate revenue and cut down costs in the long-term. Steels added that plans for environmentally friendly insulation are an example of how sustainability measures could save on energy consumption and utility costs down the road.

Regarding some of the Lawson Centre’s green initiatives, such as an urban farming program, Steels noted, “We’re trying to put ourselves out there so that folks see what we’re doing and we can really help move the conversation [on sustainability] forward.”

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