Construction of University of Alberta library benefits from women-led team

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The University of Alberta is shifting historic trends with a female-led leadership team overseeing the Geoffrey and Robyn Sperber Health Sciences Library design and construction project. Work is being led by women at all levels: from senior leadership and project management to planning and design to construction.

Lara McClelland, associate vice-president, integrated planning, development and partnerships for F&O, says the makeup of team came about naturally when selecting those who had the skills needed for the project.

“We naturally looked at aligning areas of talent, expertise, who needed to be engaged, who knew the program area best, and contracted industry talent where it was needed; it evolved that the significant majority of people on this project were women,” McClelland said.

She attributes the project team’s makeup to an increasing number of women filling prominent roles in Facilities & Operations, which has contributed to the success of the project and differing perspectives on many projects.

“It allowed a degree of curiosity and peer understanding that continued to enhance the project’s success.”

The team is building the Geoffrey and Robyn Sperber Health Sciences Library in the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA) and it will replace the Scott Health Sciences Library in the Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre.

The project has required a wide breadth of expertise as it will incorporate elements, such as an Indigenous learning space, digital equipment such as virtual reality, 3D printing and media production tools, a collaborative stairway like the one found in CAB, and a museum display for the university’s historical dental artifacts collection.

Jason Russell, manager of project delivery, has worked in construction and project management for almost 15 years and says this is the first time he’s been part of a project with this depth of female leadership.“You don’t have to look very far down that list, whether it’s the pinnacle of leadership on the university’s project team – Lara McClelland – all the way through to trade partners in the contractors’ world, where the mechanical trades project manager is female,” he says. “Everywhere down that line we’ve run into strong female leadership.”

It was important to Geoffrey Sperber, professor emeritus in the Department of Dentistry and donor for the library, that the historic dental collection be publicly displayed.

“When you walk in the entrance doors, the dental collection will be on full display,” says Russell. “Right now they tour students through the dental collection inside the storage facility. It’s really underwhelming.”

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