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Faculty of Arts & Science plans renovation of Sidney Smith Hall

Renovations will focus on accessibility, environmentalism, design
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Sidney Smith Hall. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
Sidney Smith Hall. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Dean Melanie Woodin of the Faculty of Arts & Science recently announced that the faculty will begin planning the renovation of Sidney Smith Hall in spring 2022. The project will renew the design of the building to make it more environmentally friendly, to make it accessible to a greater number of students, and to give the faculty a more distinct visual character. 

A design for today

Undergraduate and graduate students alike have complained about the confusing nature of the building’s floor plan and the lack of accessibility for its classrooms. Certain parts of the building are also cut off from others, which adds to navigational difficulties. 

The renovation plan hopes to combat these problems and improve the quality of classrooms in the building to increase the quality of education for students who use it. The university will also add spaces and services for students, including study halls, lounges, and a market. 

In an interview with U of T News, PhD student Veronica Bergstrom commented that this would be a change for the better, since such spaces are “really beneficial to students in the long run.”

Environmental perspective

Similarly to most of the recent renovations on campus, the Sidney Smith renovations will aim to reduce the carbon footprint of the building and its occupants. By the end of construction, the building should have zero-carbon certification. In order to get the certification, buildings must be highly energy efficient and produce carbon-free renewable energy to offset their annual carbon emissions. 

It is still unclear what changes will be made during the renovations in order to achieve this goal, and it does not address the emissions that will be produced by construction or what can be done to mitigate them. However, the faculty has promised to put the battle against climate change at the forefront of its priority list as it moves forward with construction projects. 

Aesthetic benefit

The renovation will also address aesthetic issues that have been brought up by students and other occupants. In particular, some say that the building’s architectural style leaves much to be desired, and many think it is dull. 

Consequently, the renovations have been designed to give the building and the faculty a greater sense of identity and character, and bolster its reputation as a centre for innovation and community.

“[Sidney Smith Hall] will be a thoughtfully designed, sustainable and accessible building complemented with a large, and welcoming open space serving our entire community for generations to come,” said Scott Mabury, vice-president of operations and real estate partnerships, in an interview with U of T News