A centre for innovation and collaboration

Durham College president Don Lovisa holding one of the few remaining pieces of the old Simcoe Building. The CFCE now stands in part on the ground where the Simcoe building once stood. Photo credit: Justin Bailey

It was time to tear down Durham College’s original building and replace it with a contemporary facility for students.

That’s how Durham College (DC) president Don Lovisa feels about the shiny new $40 million, Centre for Collaborative Education (CFCE), which officially opened its doors earlier this month.

The four-storey CFCE, which fronts onto Simcoe Street just north of the main entrance to the campus, replaces the 50-year-old, one-floor, Simcoe Building.

Site preparation and excavation started in Dec. 2016 and it opened to students this month.

Lovisa hatched the idea for the new building in 2015.

“The goal was to replace the Simcoe Building,” Lovisa said. “The building was just tired, it was time to replace it.”

To help develop the idea, Lovisa brought together faculty who occupied the Simcoe Building along with Lon Appleby, director and founder of the Global Class, members of Health Sciences and others from the marketing and communications department.

Lovisa asked the group to envision what a new space would look like. Everyone shared their ideas on this hypothetical new building but it wasn’t a quick decision for the school president.

“We sort of took the vision and the partnership and the idea to governments, and between myself and my chief of staff, we had 49 meetings,” he said.

The CFCE is now home to FastStart, an entrepreneurship centre, the DC Spa, First Peoples Indigenous Centre, the Global Classroom, simulations labs and the office of student diversity, inclusion and transitions.

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A health lab in the new CFCE building.

To get funding for the building, Lovisa had to make a compelling case to the provincial and federal governments. He said schools across Ontario and the rest of Canada all lobby governments for funding, but he was able to secure funding for DC.

Between the federal and provincial governments, Lovisa secured $35 million in funding. The province announced it would provide $22 million in April, 2016 and the federal group announced in Sept. 2016 it would throw in $13 million.

In order to keep the funding, however, two criteria had to be met.

The college had to raise $5 million on its own and substantial completion had to be done by the end of April, 2018. This meant the building had to be completed enough for intended usage, except for a few minor deficiencies. The reference is described as 97 per cent complete.

“There’s still some things to do,” Lovisa said, “It’s going to take six months to finish.”

The cost to build and furnish the 76,000 square foot building will be close to $40 million after everything is complete. Some classrooms are still waiting on back ordered items like whiteboards and chairs, Lovisa said.

One of the featured rooms in the CFCE is the Global Classroom, located on the main floor just off the Galleria. The Global Classroom has been around at DC since 2011 but has received a massive upgrade in the CFCE, said Appleby, adding there’s nothing like it anywhere else.

“Nobody’s doing that. It’s a world first,” Appleby said, as he pointed to the room. “It gives us an experience of working together like never before.”

The classroom features a large video wall with three state-of-the-art monitor systems, each allowing students and faculty to connect with each other at the touch of a button. However, Appleby also plans to dive more into the room’s ‘Global’ name by connecting with different institutions from around the world.

One example is the upcoming interactive screen event on World Polio Day, Oct. 24, which will see the Rotary Club connect with members from Chicago as part of a large event at the Durham College building.

“It’s a recognition from top down, about the way we learn everything, that a revolution was needed because of technology,” Appleby said. “By using technology to help learn, we’re now designed to better reach out to the community, with collaboration being the key part.”

Appleby said the upgrade from its former home at the Gordon Willey Building is significant.

“Think of the old Global Class as junior hockey,” Appleby said. “This is the Stanley Cup.”