SFU’s Five Year Capital Plan entails complete renovation of W.A.C. Bennett Library

Facilities Services is hoping to take a phased approach, where students are able to use the library during renovations

Photo courtesy of CTV News

Written by: Michelle Gomez, News Editor

SFU’s Five Year Capital Plan currently involves a library renovation project that was initially anticipated to have the W.A.C Bennett Library shut down for five years. However, they are now looking at a phased approach that would take longer, but would allow students access to the library throughout the renovation. 

The plan states that the library is in “poor condition” and requires upgrades to address “life safety, seismic, and accessibility issues.” It has a current Facility Condition Index (FCI) assessment of 0.89, which measures the condition of a building to the cost of reproduction. According to the condition scale, any FCI number above 0.30 is considered in critical condition. 

The Peak interviewed Ian Abercrombie, Director of Campus Planning & Development in SFU’s Facilities Services for more information. 

Abercrombie explained that the renovations would include seismic upgrades, the replacement of the ventilation and electric systems, repairs to the roof (which is currently subject to frequent leaks), replacing windows, and asbestos removal. However, he added that the Capital Plan is aspirational, meaning that the university is waiting on provincial funding to begin. 

The current Capital Plan stated that all library services will be moved to the Shrum Science Centre Biology building during the renovation project. However, Abercrombie noted that these plans have now been changed. They are instead hoping to take a phased approach, where the library would not be entirely shut down, but instead would be renovated on a floor-by-floor basis over a longer period of time. This plan is to be presented to the Board of Governors for approval in the upcoming June Board meeting. 

A downside of this approach is the difficulty of completing the renovation without being disruptive to students, added Abercrombie. 

Student Senator Colin Fowler said in a phone interview with The Peak that “it’s going to be a very intense and very invasive operation over several years.” 

Fowler, who in 2019 ran for Senate on a platform that openly opposed the five year library shutdown, stated that, “The library was really my second home on campus [ . . . ] Many people can’t study at home, they don’t have any other alternative study spaces that are suitable for them.” 

“It’s the heart of campus,” added Fowler. 

When asked if the costs outweigh the benefits, Fowler did acknowledge that it is important to uphold safety standards. However, he argued, “I think five years is a bit excessive [ . . . ] There’s night work there’s weekend work, I don’t see why this should be any more than two years.” 

Although the cost of renovating the library was not that much lower than the cost of building an entirely new building, Abercrombie explained why rebuilding is not currently an option being considered: “It is considered an important historic building on the SFU campus [ . . . ] when we did the Burnaby campus master plan and reviewed all the buildings it was widely recognized as being an important building to preserve on our campus.”