Better Space for Today’s Science

Nov 22, 2017

Dean Trevor YoungDean Trevor Young Good design works wonders. Walking the sixth floor of the Medical Sciences Building, it’s clear the newly renovated wet labs — and many other spaces throughout the building — have undergone dramatic change. Gone are the walls and aging benches, replaced by open spaces, natural light and state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure. It’s a stunning transformation, made possible by $40 million from Lab Innovation for Toronto (LIFT), a $190 cross-campus renewal funded by U of T and the federal and provincial governments.

The timeline for this project is very tight — all work must be done by spring 2018 — but I’m pleased to report that renovations are on schedule, with many areas for our basic science labs (floors three through seven) already complete. The renovated room for our 1GHz nuclear magnetic resonance machine will be ready early in the new year, and an overhaul of our anatomy teaching labs is done with support space to finish in February, complementing recent upgrades to our third-floor teaching labs. 

I want to offer a special thanks to our Facilities Management and Space Planning team led by Heather Taylor. Heather and her group, including Leah Scherk, Matt Seegmiller, Jelena Porovic, Andrea Leung, Karen Nguyen and Megan Smith, have managed this complex undertaking with skill and care. As you know, we continue to monitor and test abatement areas and other parts of the building, and to communicate with students, faculty and staff to provide updates and address concerns.

Our new wet labs make much better use of space. In a word, they are flexible: researchers can raise, lower and move benches, or convert them for dry lab and computer use. They can move services and equipment where needed, and scale the number of lab members up or down without wasting space, no longer constrained by walls and a one-size-fits all mentality. 

The new open concept facilitates collaboration and cost-sharing. Members of different labs can work side-by-side sharing insights and best practices, leading to better science and improved safety. They can also share equipment, meaning reduced purchase and maintenance costs for centrifuges and other bench technology. Broadly, all MSB researchers will benefit from a new centralized glass-washing facility staffed with professionals, consolidating space and freeing students’ time for lab work.

New MSB labs, Younes Bounhar, doublespace photographyThe new labs are also greener. We’ve halved the number of fume hoods and the new models run on variable speeds, cutting energy consumption. New lights are occupant-sensing LEDs, and rubber flooring and stainless steel furniture improve air quality and longevity.

Critically, this renovation has hugely improved our cold rooms and facilities for ultra-low temperature freezers. Many of our freezers were labouring in inefficient rooms with ad-hoc air conditioning, prone to burn-out. Our new units will live in dedicated and monitored freezer farms, reducing strain and limiting the risk of mechanical failure, freeing research space and removing a heat and noise source from active labs. We’ll also have emergency power, connected to a dedicated gas-fired generator that can run indefinitely in the event of a power outage. 

This is an exciting moment for our Faculty. Our reputation as one of the best places in the world for health science and medical education continues to grow, and these improvements to our building and infrastructure will boost our capacity for discovery, burnish our brand and help us continue to recruit and retain the very best faculty and students.

Click here for more photos of the new labs.

Trevor Young
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions

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