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Communication on lab construction lacking: aerospace engineering professor

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By Sherina Harris

Following a revelation that aerospace engineering students and faculty weren’t consulted on a construction project that would convert their workspace into storage, the principal investigator of the lab says he is still in the dark about construction plans.

“I believe the current administration of my faculty has a serious misunderstanding of the word consultation,” said Zouheir Fawaz, the lab’s principal investigator and an aerospace engineering professor.

The Facility for Research on Aerospace Materials and Engineered Structures (FRAMES) lab is used by research assistants in the aerospace engineering department. It’s also used by approximately 120 undergraduate students during a mandatory aerospace structural design course that Fawaz teaches.

Although Ryerson University’s Facilities and Management Development (FMD) said there won’t be construction affecting classes or labs in the space before May 2019, FMD said there may be “activity in adjacent areas.”

Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi previously told The Eye the construction would begin in February 2019. On Nov. 22, it was determined the space would need a building code review, which will delay construction until May, according to Ryerson’s media relations office.

Fawaz said he wasn’t aware of the new construction date until approached by The Eye.

“Stakeholder consultations for the FRAMES Lab and the building code review are both ongoing and are part of the design process,” FMD said in a statement.

FMD added that the construction project’s duration is currently unknown because the designs  for the space aren’t complete.

Thomas Duever, the dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Sciences (FEAS), said FMD is consulting with the lab’s principal investigators, including Fawaz, on the project.

Another co-investigator, Kazem Fayazbakhsh, said there have been no department meetings or consultations, and only found out about the new May start date from Fawaz.

The lab’s third co-investigator, Cheung Poon, did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. Poon previously told The Eye he was not involved with the project.

Fawaz said he met with Monica Contreras, the director of design and construction in Ryerson’s Project Management Office, once. During their meeting on Nov. 20, he talked about his concerns that the proposed construction would impact his ability to teach a mandatory aerospace structural design course.

Fawaz said Contreras told him she would bring his concerns to the dean of the faculty, but hasn’t heard anything since.

Research assistants who use the lab previously told The Eye they were not consulted about the project. They said they wished they were since the project will convert their lab space into a storage area.

The course Fawaz teaches involves four experiments throughout a semester. The FRAMES lab is the only space in the building that can accommodate an aircraft, which is used in the experiments, he said.

If the construction goes ahead, Fawaz said he will have to cancel the lab-teaching component of the course.

This practical component is important to the program’s accreditation with the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), according to the professor.

Lynn Villeneuve, the CEAB’s manager of accreditation, said the CEAB cannot comment on specific situations at institutions.

“Construction is a regular feature of university campuses and it is up to the institution to put in place the measures to ensure that the standards for accreditation continue to be met during the disruption,” Villeneuve said.

Duever, the dean of FEAS, said in a statement the faculty will be, “Taking action to ensure that the proposed renovation will not interfere with the instruction that is taking place in the lab.”  

He added he has no concerns about the impact of the construction on the program’s accreditation. Ryerson’s aerospace engineering program has been accredited since 1992.

Fawaz also raised concerns about where students will relocate once the construction stars. Plans dated Nov. 9 show student space relocated to areas either currently occupied by cabinets and heavy machinery, or an area which Fawaz said is a closed-off room for boiling jet fuel.

Although Fawaz said the jet fuel boiling is safe, it’s noisy. He also said that the reason the student workspace exists where it does is because it is away from heavy machinery and close to the exit door.

“The plans have not been finalized and still require various approvals, including those relating to safety,” Duever said in a statement.


  1. It is sad that in a world class university project management isn’t practiced and still not managed witjbthe protocol it deserves.
    I am an alumni and I know Dr. Fawaz always puts the needs of students before everything. Feels like university didn’t think this plan through and they are going ahead just to please a few people. Students should get together and protest as I remember we gotnthis space after a lot of struggle! Our aerospace program is our pride!

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