The University of Calgary's Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy finally secured the capital funding to build a home for the 1,000 student spaces that had been funded in March 2006.
The province announced Tue., Jul. 10 it would give the U of C $260 million to build the Energy and Environment building, which will house the ISEEE and the Experiential Learning Centre. The building will be located at 32nd Ave. and Campus Drive NW, in front of the ICT building.
The university had initially asked for $283 million but requested another $40 million for the ELC, which would replace many existing biology and chemistry laboratories. The creation of the new labs would free up space in other faculties according to U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten.
Weingarten said he hoped ground will be broken by this fall, with an aim to get students in the classroom by mid-2010. However, the province has pledged the funding over a five-year period. Despite the discrepancy in the amount of funding and the timeline Weingarten was confident that the project could still go as planned.
"We work extremely well with the province in terms of how they can flow money and how we can use money in ways that gets projects done as quickly as we can," said Weingarten. "Frankly there's nothing unusual about this, this is a project that we and the province want to get up as quickly as possible, we'll figure out how to do it."
Premier Ed Stelmach said the ISEEE is crucial in dealing with further energy development in Alberta and understanding what impact it will have on the future.
"This is an excellent location because it brings to Calgary, a city that's known for its oil and gas expertise, the whole issue of sustainable development and environment which is key to the continued economic sustainability of the province of Alberta," said Stelmach.
Liberal MLA Harry Chase said he was glad to see the province's surplus money directed to education but was disappointed the funding was not debated in legislature before the announcement.
"[ISEEE] is the priority of a $1.5 billion needs-list of the university of Calgary," said Chase. "Because of the delay and inflation Dr. [Robert] Mansell, the former director of ISEEE, has indicated that in order to fulfill the initial goal of 1,000 spaces [the project] would range in the area of $400 million. Today we received $260 million. As a representative for the University of Calgary I am happy that money has initially been invested but I want to see a guarantee that the project--as it was envisioned--will be fully funded."
Mansell went on academic leave Sat., Jun. 30. He declined to comment but sources said he had spent five years on the project and was now going to recharge his batteries. Mansell will stay on the project as a senior fellow. A new managing director has yet to be named.
Former dean of science Mike Boorman had led the planning for the ELC and has
been named the project manager for the E&E building. Boorman could not be reached by press time.
The ISEEE will be an interfaculty centre, housing professors, researchers and students from a number of different faculties. Students' Union president Julie Bogle said the range of faculties working together on a common problem would benefit students and Albertans in general.
"I hope that there will be more funding from external sources, may that be the government or private donations," said Bogle. "I would like to see the original plan fulfilled."