House to Combine Accessibility, Green Technology
U of G students help fund retrofit, expansion of Guelph
Campus Co-op lodging house on College Avenue
BY DAVID DICENZO
AND DEIRDRE HEALEY
The thud of a hammer was a welcome sound to some 50 people gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on the front lawn of 7 College Ave. W. May 2. The construction noise signified that work is under way on a $650,000 retrofit and expansion of the Guelph Campus Co-operative lodging house located there to turn it into a state-of-the-art home that combines accessibility and green technology.
U of G students are helping to fund the 12-person eco-friendly house, which is located just metres from campus.
“We hope our little project will serve as an inspiration to other homeowners, co-operatives, developers and politicians — that smart buildings are not only possible, they are necessary,” Guelph Campus Co-op housing manager Tom Klein Beernink told the crowd. “We face huge challenges in the 21st century, and this approach to building can no longer afford to be seen as eccentric or fringe. This has to become commonplace.”
Although construction has already begun, Klein Beernink and Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge stood in front of the house with a sparkling shovel for the ceremonial groundbreaking. The goal is to have the renovated lodging house and its new addition complete for students to move in just before the fall semester.
The home will be fully accessible for students with mobility challenges and visual impairments, giving them a chance to live off campus with other students but still be close by.
“It's going to be great for students with disabilities to be able to live off campus but to be able to wheel or scoot over without worrying about transportation issues,” said Barry Wheeler of U of G's Centre for Students With Disabilities.
Although there is accessible housing on campus, off-campus options for students with disabilities are primarily one- or two-bedroom apartments located a fair distance from the University, said Klein Beernink.
“That can be very isolating if you're living on your own and are far away from campus. Part of the experience of university is living with other students. This lodging house will provide that.”
The initiative was a result of collaboration among many stakeholders, including the Guelph Campus Co-op and the Central Student Association (CSA). Klein Beernink applauded the CSA and its affordable housing initiative, saying the project would not have been possible without the organization's participation.
In 2003, undergraduate students voted to donate 87 cents a semester towards a fund that would help create more accessible housing for students. The lodging house is the first project to be funded through these donations.
“This project is a reminder to me about the strength of the student collective on our campus,” said Brenda Whiteside, associate vice-president (student affairs). “In 2003, while all of us were promoting the issue of affordable and accessible housing, the students, as is their way, did something about it.”
Whiteside said she was pleased not only that the house will be eco-friendly but also that the Guelph Campus Co-op worked alongside the CSA in developing it.
“Because they aren't focused on profit but more on providing service to students, and because they also have a commitment to the development of student leadership, this is going to be a project that's even more exciting and enriching than just 12 rooms.”
Plans for the house were on display at the groundbreaking. The green features include grey-water infrastructure that will allow for water to be recycled.
“A grey-water system would reuse the water from a shower to flush the toilet, for example,” said Klein Beernink. “There will also be a rainwater collection system installed, which uses harvested rainwater to flush toilets. This will drastically curtail water consumption.”
The addition, which will include an elevator, will also have a green roof and solar panels that will be used to heat nearly all the hot water used in the house, as well as for passive heating and cooling.
The building will also be outfitted with energy-efficient and accessible appliances and lighting.
Everyone involved in the project envisions the house as a model for future construction, said Noah Jensen, president of the co-op. “We're hoping it will be seen as a more popular thing to do.”