Asbestos discovery thwarts gym usage for club space

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

After the University Community Centre renovation referendum failed to pass last month, the University Students’ Council revised its space usage plan.

One of the initiatives included utilizing the newly acquired space for student club events. However, a small hitch occurred upon the discovery of asbestos in the access hallway beside the gymnasiums.

“We were told that [the gyms] would be ready for us to use in January,” Marc Foster, president of UNICEF Western, said.

According to Foster, UNICEF had to cancel its events scheduled to be held in the gyms in March due to unavailability of the promised space.

“We’ve been making promises to students but cannot deliver them due to the actions of the USC,” Foster added. “They were not even sure when [the space] would be available.”

Although the USC already started booking student clubs into the UCC gym space, they have yet to make it accessible to groups.

While one of the gymnasiums is being used for storage purposes, the other two may be unavailable due to the ongoing removal of asbestos " a group of minerals used in the past for purposes of fireproofing articles. Upon exposure, the material can lead to serious lung diseases.

According to UCC building manager Paul Tomlinson, the asbestos was sprayed on pipes to prevent heat transfer during the 1970s.

“If [the asbestos] is left undisturbed, it is generally not a problem,” Tomlinson added.

Tomlinson also mentioned the asbestos was only found in the corridor which runs along the old pool gallery and a certified company is working towards removing it.

“That area is completely off limits and sealed. The air system there is shut off so it does not get [transferred] to the rest of the building,” Tomlinson said. “Students should definitely not be concerned.”

While the removal of asbestos is expected to conclude by the end of next week, the area will continue to be off limits.

Tomlinson also mentioned that although Gym One will be available shortly, the other two will be inaccessible until mid to late March.

While asbestos removal is not taking place in those gymnasiums itself, they are being used to store equipment and machinery required for the process.

As the USC will not be renovating their newly occupied space, it raises the question as to what happens next.

Due to the university’s ongoing renovations, the USC now has 17,900 square feet of new space to run student activities.

“We developed an interim space usage plan which stated how we were going to use the space while the renovations were in a break period,” Matt Kington, USC VP-finance, said. “That plan is basically becoming our space usage plan now.”

Along with using the extra space for student events, the USC is working with the London Chamber of Commerce and other members of the academic community to provide support for student business endeavors.

In addition, the USC Board of Directors and members of its Senior Management Team plan to integrate student art into the building to enhance the internal look of the UCC.

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