Balsillie School of International Affairs an innovative campus


The construction site for the Balsillie School of International Affairs at Erb St. and Caroline St. is bustling with contractors hard at work to provide the area of uptown Waterloo and the students of the school with a campus by the summer of 2011.

The school is a partnership between the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the University of Waterloo (UW) and Wilfrid Laurier University, partnerships Kuntz said will benefit the entire globe.

The ongoing construction project will be home to the Balsillie School along with a possible masters program in international law, an anticipated school of global trade and innovation and the proposed Morrison Centre for research and studies in peace and conflict, which is currently in the planning stages.

Many at UW, Laurier and CIGI expect the school to become a global hub of innovation and learning.

“You have the think tank’s ability to bring world leaders and practitioners and policy from all around the globe to Waterloo and you have the up and coming students who bring the cutting edge ideas from their studies and the researchers,” said Fred Kuntz, senior director of communications and public affairs for CIGI.

“All of that creates a hub of excellence, a critical mass that could actually change the world.”
The school and campus are being constructed with the help of $50 million of provincial and federal funding through the Knowledge and Infrastructure Program and Ontario’s 2009 budget.

This funding was also matched by CIGI founder and chair Jim Balsillie, who is also the co-CEO of Research In Motion (RIM).

The $50-million construction project will be executed by Cooper Construction Ltd. and the 114,000 square foot campus was designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB).

With the construction of the Balsillie school came discussion on how to make the buildings more environmentally sustainable.

“This institution is obviously going to be an important player on the world stage and as that kind of institution it is it has a responsibility to examine all the issues that affect our lives and sustainability is a huge issue,” said Blumberg.

This heightened awareness was taken into account during the decision to use new architectural advancements like the construction technology “BubbleDeck”.

By insulating the structure of the building with plastic spheres instead of cement, cement usage is significantly decreased. The new technology also makes pillars and floors less wide, optimizing indoor spaces.

“The cement industry actually is responsible for five per cent of global emissions, the airline industry for three,” explained KPMB partner Shirley Blumberg, demonstrating a need for the use of new technologies such as BubbleDeck.

“As architects and builders we have a responsibility. Bubble deck saves 30 per cent of the concrete so environmentally it’s an excellent thing,” Blumberg continued.

The buildings will also include in-slab heating and cooling, a feature project manager Bruno D’Aloisio said will also save energy.

Other environmentally friendly features expected for the campus include a green roof with plant life and underground storage for rainwater to be collected and reused.

Taking the public into account

Being built on $5 million City of Waterloo-leased land that is highly developable for commercial purposes, KPMB had the difficult task of making the Balsillie campus appealing to the greater Waterloo community. Numerous impacts on the community were taken into account during design and with the future of the institution’s role for Kitchener-Waterloo foremost in Blumberg’s mind.

Located across from restaurant businesses, Blumberg said KPMB took into account the residential nature of the community to the west of the building by setting the structure back and creating a landscaped porch which will be open to the public.

“[This area has] sort of tried to recognize the more sensitive nature of the residential here,” explained Blumberg of the design.

Not only do the exterior aesthetics of the building complement the surrounding area, but the 250-seat lecture hall located on the campus will also be able to be used by the public.

“We really wanted to make sure what we gave to the streetscape and the public realm was respectful,” explained Blumberg.

Construction of the Balsillie campus has not gone as smoothly as hoped. Architects were hired to design the building in May of 2008 and despite a funding announcement in May 2009, groundbreaking for the buildings was delayed in June of last year.

The campus is scheduled for completion on March 31, 2011.


The new Balsillie school will hopefully also be home to:

A masters program in internaitonal law
the Morrison Centre for peace and conflict studies
A school of global trade and innovation

Highlights of the new building included:

  • A 250-seat state-of-the-art lecture


    Proposed meeting places on each of
    the building’s three floors with

    Tunnel to link future residence
    buildings (Phase 2 of building will
    likely include a residence)

    Inner courtyard and part of the roof
    will include green space

    Birch tree patio across from local
    restaurants will be open to the

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