Humanities Centre reopens after winter closure

Vice-president (asset management and operations) James Allen says the Office of the Registrar plans to utilize the classrooms in HC for fall 2024.

On December 18, 2023, the Humanities Centre (HC) closed following an electrical vault fire. The initial closure was temporary, however the building remained closed for the entirety of winter 2024. On June 5, the university announced that the HC was set to reopen in mid-June.

Initial reoccupation began on June 17, according to University of Alberta Assistant Vice-president (asset management and operations), James Allen. Currently, the HC is only accessible with a OneCard for security purposes, which will be reassessed in August, Allen said.

He added that the Office of the Registrar plans to utilize the classrooms in the HC for fall 2024.

The electrical vault fire that occurred in December produced a lot of smoke and contaminants, Allen said. Specialized occupational hygienists that specialize in post-fire remediation were brought in to inspect the building.

“We engaged in a fairly robust process to go through space by space, testing for contamination. And making sure that was 100 per cent cleaned up and ready for reoccupation,” Allen said. “That took us a long time. There were a lot of spaces and items that we needed to ensure were safe.”

The specialized occupational hygienists repeatedly tested every surface that could have possibly been contaminated, Allen added.

Plans to vacate or repurpose HC depend on other development projects

The university plans to potentially vacate or repurpose the HC, according to the 2024-27 Capital Plan. According to the June 5 update, the faculty of arts will eventually be spread out throughout nine buildings.

“That’s part of an overall effort to make sure we’re providing the best spaces for student experience, teaching experience, and impactful research,” Allen said.

Allen added that plans to vacate or repurpose the HC are tied to a number of other major redevelopment projects, such as the redevelopment of the Education Complex, which is described in the 2024-27 Capital Plan. The faculty of education could be consolidated into one of the Education Building towers, freeing up the other tower for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

“I don’t want to be definitive because things change,” Allen said. “But we’re talking five to 10 years before anything definitive would happen.”

Allen acknowledged the Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Marvin Washington, and all faculty members for their work in returning to the HC.

“I believe that was all done in a very open, transparent, and communicative fashion. I’d like to give a shout out to Washington and his team, and the collaborative process that he’s been engaged in with our team.”

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

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