Cooper Construction is building a home for higher thinking that could change the world

The Balsillie School of international Affairs is an institution devoted to the study of international affairs and global governance. All it needs is a home of its own. The school is a collaborative partnership between Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), the University of Waterloo, and The Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI), but it doesn’t have a proper campus. That is about to change.

Cooper Construction was hired in April 2009 to provide construction management services for a new three-storey structure that will be located next to CIGI, in Waterloo, Ontario. The structure will consist of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, an academic building and an auditorium, all connected to each other. A stone bell tower will provide an anchor to the international affairs building and the new structure will be connected to CIGI’s already existing building. The property will also have two parking lots.

Cooper Construction began operations on the site in August 2009 and is scheduled to finish by march 31, 2011. As of August 2010, all the foundations were complete, except for the service building which was being excavated. The auditorium’s precast wall panels had been erected and supported, and the precast seats were welded in place. In the academic building, ductwork was installed where possible and the bell tower formwork was poured up to the third-floor roof. Footings had been placed and underground services were being installed in the service building.

The Balsillie School of International Affairs building will cover 56,000 square feet; the auditorium will be 14,000 square feet, and the academic building will add 40,000 square feet.

The Balsillie School is home to a critical mass of extraordinary experts; the school provides students with an inter-disciplinary learning environment in which they develop the knowledge and expertise of international issues from the core disciplines of economics, history, environmental studies and related fields. Students prepare for careers in teaching and research in the field of international affairs, as well as for a growing range of careers within national governments, international organizations, the non-government sector and the private sector.

Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion, founded the Balsillie School in 2007. There are more than 60 affiliated faculty teaching in the three programs currently associated with the school — the Ph.D in Global Governance, the Master’s program in Global Governance, and the Master’s in International Public policy — and more than 50 graduate students at UW and WLU currently hold Balsillie Fellowships.

“This project will create a unique hub in Canada”, CIGI Senior Director of Communications Fred Kuntz says. “With the global programs we’re assembling and the proximity of the think tank to other research, faculty and students, it has the potential to change the world.’

The architect of the project, KPMB Architects, called for the use of BubbleDeck® technology in the structure, something Cooper Construction was unfamiliar with. However, the company would not be intimidated by using a new technology and quickly adapted and has been successful with it. The technology is so new to Canada that the campus is only the second structure to use it and is the first in Ontario.

BubbleDeck® technology is a European system wherein hollow plastic balls eliminate concrete with no carrying effect. When the top and bottom reinforcements are linked, the balls lock into place, controlling the reinforcement levels, and the concrete can be poured over the slab.

BubbleDeck Atlantic was involved with the consultants on the Balsillie Campus from the development stage. The building was optimized with BubbleDeck (40-foot spans) giving the consultants open spaces required for the classroom environments. With the use of BubbleDeck®, the overall height of the building was reduced, resulting in a cost-saving of the façade and decreasing the construction time on site. A new method of cooling was also implemented; cooling lines were installed in the pre-cast BubbleDeck® panels, using the mass of the structure to maintain temperature inside the building.

The Cooper Way
Cooper Construction is a third-generation family-owned Canadian construction company that conducts business throughout southern Ontario in three primary sectors: design/build construction, construction management, and commercial and industrial real estate development.

President William Cooper Sr. says the company philosophy gives its clients the right to expect extraordinary efforts to deliver an outstanding project. “We have an obligation to meet their expectations”, he states. “Through dedicated, transparent communication and demonstrated integrity, we build enduring relationships with our clients.”

This article appeared in the Fall 2010 edition of Building & Construction – Canada, and is reproduced with the permission of the publishers.

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