New F.H. Collins design cribbed from Alberta

There is a new plan for the F.H. Collins building project, again. The Department of Education went shopping across Western and Northern Canada for possible new designs in March after the original building design proved too expensive.

There is a new plan for the F.H. Collins building project, again.

The Department of Education went shopping across Western and Northern Canada for possible new designs in March after the original building design proved too expensive.

Now the department has settled on a two-storey design from Alberta that it will import to the Yukon with some minor changes.

“In conversations at the officials level with Manitoba and Saskatchewan, they were really looking to what Alberta has been doing,” said Education Minister Scott Kent.

The design has been built in a number of Alberta communities, most recently in Terwilliger, outside of Edmonton.

“The decision was to look at Alberta because Alberta has built a number of secondary schools in the last couple of years, so their designs are very current. Alberta also has copyright ownership of their designs and are willing to share them with us at no cost,” said Valerie Royle, Yukon’s deputy minister of education.

The school in Terwilliger was built between 2009 and 2012 for a cost of $21 million, and can hold up to 750 students.

Royle said the design fits the needs of the F.H. Collins community because of its flexible plan, which allows for easy additions if the school needs to expand in the future.

The department will have to make some modifications because the Alberta copy doesn’t have a cafeteria or an industrial kitchen, but Royle said those additions will be easy to make to the overall design.

If the francophone school board decides they want to include their French-language high school at F.H. Collins, the new building can be expanded to accommodate the increase, Royle said.

The design also has a large volume of flexible space. Decisions about what to use it for are still being made.

“The consultation that the F.H. Collins school council has undergone in the last couple of weeks will be instrumental in informing how those interior spaces are used,” Royle said.

The tech trades wing will remain as a stand-alone building when the old F.H. Collins is torn down. The new building will be entirely separate from the current school, so classes and programming shouldn’t be disrupted during construction, Royle said.

Mike Johnson, Yukon’s deputy minister of pubic works, said the process now reverts back to his department to plan the exact layout and construction of the new building.

“We need to assess the ground conditions,” said Johnson.

“This is a done design that we’re acquiring from Alberta. Alberta Infrastructure has made themselves available quite extensively to my staff in order to let us be aware of any issues and challenges with delivering the project.”

The prep work will be done over the summer, and Johnson said he expects to put the project out to tender in the fall. Construction should be complete by the 2015/16 school year, said Johnson. Initial plans would have seen the school completed this summer.

When developing the tenders for the previous design, the government said that it hired two independent professional estimators to help develop the budget of $36.8 million. But when the tender bids came back, the lowest one was almost $9 million above that. The government said it won’t release its professional estimates because it could negatively impact the tendering process for the new design.

Johnson also declined to put a price on the new design.

“I’m reluctant to say what this model will cost because it’s not in Edmonton. There’s a different context and it’s a different time. That being said … I know to an order of magnitude that I can bring this thing home for less than $36.8 million,” Johnson said.

Contact Jesse Winter at jessew@yukon-news.com