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David Braley Athletic Centre, McMaster University

Originally published in Award Magazine

Since Hamilton, Ontario’s Ivor Wynne Centre at McMaster University was built in 1966, the student population doubled but the athletic facility didn’t grow to keep pace. So in 2004, the university broke ground on the David Braley Athletic Centre.

The $27.5M centre features long-desired facilities like a sports hall; an indoor 200m track; a climbing wall; and a hydrotherapy pool. And since it’s attached to Ivor Wynne, McMaster can now boast the largest fitness centre in Canada.

Architect Ross Hanham of Garwood-Jones & Hanham Architects, adapted the new building to the old with help from Calgary’s GEC Architecture. “Integration with the Ivor Wynne Centre required matching low floor-to floor heights and responding to an existing architecture that was fortress-like and highly inward-focused,” said Hanham. “The design concept included threading a mezzanine through double-height spaces to allow necessary linkages to the existing building on all three floors.”

Sensitive to today’s multicultural student body, change rooms include “modesty areas” where families, members of certain religions and others can change in private. “It’s not just a gang dressing room like the old days,” said Phil Wood, Dean of Students for Hamilton’s McMaster University.

Project leaders chose to respect the earth as well as Ivor Wynne when they registered the project for LEED certification. This decision resulted in many separate design initiatives.

Demand for water was greatly cut by waterless urinals as well as the use of rainwater for toilets and landscaping needs. Outlets for fresh water, such as showerheads and faucets, are low-flow.

Mechanical engineer Kevin Sharples of Smith and Andersen Consulting Engineering didn’t skip the obvious. “The centre also has electronic faucets, which also minimizes water use,” he said.

Periods of high occupancy in the gym would demand what Sharples called an “onerous” amount of ventilation in order to meet ASHRAE 62-2004 standards, so the centre uses energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) and demand ventilation. “ERVs recover heat and moisture from the air being exhausted,” said Sharples. Variable frequency drives change speed to respond to demand ventilation as well.

Hanham and his team incorporated as much sunlight into the design as possible, according to Tony Cipriani, electrical engineer for Group Eight Engineering Limited. Before Cipriani’s team could make lighting as energy efficient as possible, however, they had to ensure the building had power.

“The main substation is in the sub-basement of the Ivor Wynne Centre,” Cipriani explained. “We had to get power to the new facility’s electrical room.”

The team decided to install new transformers large enough to handle loads from Ivor Wynne and the David Braley Centre, as well as the new stadium under construction nearby. Contractors replaced the two 600 kVA, 13,800-volt primary and 600-volt secondary transformers with two 1500 kVA transformers and new 600-volt distribution equipment. The transformer transplant happened on a long weekend soon after construction started, so it didn’t affect ongoing operations or later stages of construction.

Once power was assured, work on lighting began. Master satellite systems were used extensively. These involve one master ballast resident in one lighting fixture that feeds up to three other fixtures. “The ballast would have a lower wattage rating than having a ballast in every fixture,” said Cipriani.

Competitive games call for good lighting, but when the games aren’t on, lighting is dimmed to save energy. That’s in addition to sensors that kill the lights ten minutes after the last person leaves a room. Where windows let in natural light, a daylight harvesting system extinguishes banks of lights when they aren’t needed.

The whole system keeps lighting at required levels throughout the building at a power density of 9.27 W/m2 (the prescribed value is 12.29 W/m2).

While project leaders wait for a decision on LEED, the federal government has awarded Mac $60,000 under its Commercial Building Incentive Program (CBIP) for beating the Model National Energy Code for Building (MNECB) by more than 25%. (The centre’s energy use is predicted to be 29.2% under the MNECB.)

Construction using LEED methodology meant a learning curve, admitted Chris Buckiewicz, project manager for Vanbots Construction Corp. “You learn what exactly costs more and how much more,” he said. “You have to do it once to see.”

Buckiewicz also sees the benefits. “LEED collects all good practices into a code,” he said. “It will be standard operating procedures five years down the road. It will bring the whole construction industry up to a new level.”

Buckiewicz faced concerns other than LEED. Steel needed for construction of the building’s frame was late and the timeline was unforgiving, so crews started building the centre from the inside out. “We closed in the interior of the whole east half of the building and did all the interior finishes,” said Buckiewicz.

Project funding came largely from a student-approved $20M contribution raised through their fees. Former McMaster Marauder football and basketball player and local auto parts magnate David Braley gave $5M. Plaques dot the centre to recognize other donors who made up the difference. “None of the money came from the university’s operating funds,” said Wood. Marauder Plaza, a natural amphitheatre, was built in the north entrance to recognize the students’ contribution.

The indoor 200m track, neighbour to the high-performance training centre, sits above all other facilities. The middle of the track is open to the floor below, while the roof above juts up to outline the track.

Workout space is no longer a problem at McMaster. “We can now accommodate all the students, and faculty, as well as members of the public who want to pay to be members,” said Wood.

Representatives from other universities will see how the centre was done in March when McMaster hosts the men’s volleyball national championship. The university could have built, in Buckiewicz’s opinion, “a 200,000 square-foot box, but instead it has all these aesthetic features.”

“When you make an investment as a student in something like that and then see it be built and for it to be so appealing, so attractive, is really something,” said Wood.



1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario
L8S 4L8


McMaster University

1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario
L8S 4L8


Garwood-Jones & Hanham Architects

Associate Architect

GEC Architecture

Project Manager

Vanbots Construction Corp.

General Contractor

Vanbots Construction Corp.

Construction Manager

Vanbots Construction Corp.

Structural Consultant

Yolles Partnership Ltd. and Millennium Engineering

Mechanical Consultant

Smith and Andersen Consulting Engineering

Electrical Consultant

Group Eight Engineering

Landscape Architect

GSP Group Inc.

Geotechnical Engineer

Soil-Mat Engineers & Consultants Ltd did pre-design site investigation.

Trow Associates Inc. did independent testing & inspection during construction.

Total Area

12,122 square meters

Total Construction Cost

$27.5M million