Zones and research groups still moving into Ryerson’s Centre for Urban Innovation

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By Cole Brocksom

Ryerson’s Facilities Management and Development (FMD) said that the university’s new Centre for Urban Innovation (CUI) is open and fully operational, but some of the user groups still haven’t fully moved in.

Angela Murphy, manager of Research and Partnerships at Ryerson Urban Water (RUW) said that only a couple of their researchers have been able to start working in the CUI.

Murphy said the process of acquiring non-standard equipment and getting it ready for lab use “has been very messy.”

They have labs with highly technical equipment being delivered and moved and installed,” Murphy said, adding that many of the labs have “highly non-standard” electrical and water requirements. “They have their work cut out for them.”

The building was planned to open in September, but the project experienced setbacks during construction, according to FMD.

“Like any complicated building project, CUI encountered some unexpected conditions and supplier lags which caused a delay of a few weeks,” FMD wrote in an email. “However, move-ins were completed on schedule.”

Murphy said she is hopeful that RUW will have all of their staff and equipment moved in by the end of January. However, because the team will still have to resolve any deficiencies that come with the new space, it may be later than the end of the month before the staff begins work said Murphy.

Inside the CUI.
Inside the Centre for Urban Innovation. Photo: Cole Brocksom.

The Science Discovery Zone (SDZ) was one of the first groups to move into the CUI during the last week of November.

Camila Londoño, interim director of the SDZ, said the transition to the new space “has been a little more difficult than […] expected because it wasn’t quite ready,” when they moved in.

“But it’s a much nicer and much bigger space, so we can dream a little bigger,” Londoño added.

The SDZ’s new location on the third floor of the CUI includes an expanded area designated for the zone’s startups, as well as a brand new chemical lab, biology lab and a makerspace where startups can build and prototype their products; all of which the SDZ did not have at their previous location.

“The zone is very focused on innovation and this space reflects that,” Londoño said.

One of the other groups that moved into the space is Ryerson’s Centre for Urban Energy (CUE).

“We’re excited about our new home and the opportunities it provides for Ryerson students,” said Bala Venkatesh, founding academic director and head of the CUE.

The CUE is an academic-industry partnership that focuses on developing clean and sustainable energy solutions for urban environments, like electric cars, efficient energy storage and devices that help manage energy consumption at home.

Venkatesh said the increased lab space in the CUI will improve the group’s research and development capabilities and will provide the opportunity to collaborate with some of the other research groups operating in the CUI.

“The toughest challenge was moving the specialist—not to mention heavy—equipment from our smart grid lab, which had to be painstakingly rebuilt in our new location over the course of several months,” Venkatesh said.

Some of the other groups occupying the CUI include the Smart Urban Infrastructure Hub and the NExT Lab, according to FMD.

In the CUI.
The CUI is now open. Photo: Cole Brocksom

Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi said he thought it was an important initiative for Ryerson to bring together different groups focusing on urban issues under one roof in the CUI.

“That’s part of our DNA, the work we do as a city-builder,” Lachemi said. “We have to come up with solutions to the issues we are facing as a big city.”

The building once housed Ryerson’s theatre school, and was originally built in 1887 as the Ontario College of Pharmacy, the first pharmacy school in Canada, according to the building’s plaque.

By refurbishing an existing heritage building the project is intended to increase energy efficiency, aiming for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver designation, according to FMD.

Used across the world, LEED is a green building rating system recognizing sustainability achievement, according to the program’s website.

Work on the heating and ventilation systems in the building is still ongoing, and landscaping around the building’s exterior will take place in the spring, said FMD.

Ryerson will hold an official opening celebration for the CUI in February.

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