Why is infrastructure important to the mission of Memorial?

Memorial is focused on meeting the needs of our students through building and renewing appropriate infrastructure for 21st century teaching, research and public engagement. High-quality infrastructure enables Memorial to deliver on its commitment to the people of the province to provide excellence in education for undergraduate and graduate students. Modern and safe infrastructure is essential for Memorial to continue to produce and deliver research of national and international calibre.

Built infrastructure

As the only university in the province, Memorial has a large number of buildings across multiple campuses and locations. The large physical footprint and aging infrastructure results in high costs for maintenance, security, heating, lighting and snow clearing.

Memorial’s campuses consist of more than 100 buildings (or more than 4.1 million square feet of floor space), with over half of the space at least 35 years old. Some of the older buildings require extensive work to repair and maintain major components, such as roofs, walls, windows, mechanical systems and electrical systems.

The Facilities Condition Index (FCI) evaluates the current condition of physical infrastructure. The target at Memorial is 12 per cent, or fair-to-poor condition. Currently, the university’s FCI is 29 per cent. At this level, building components and infrastructure systems will begin to fail, undermining teaching, research and engagement at Memorial.

Image: The Facilities condition index outlines the relative condition of buildings – 10-20 per cent being ‘fair to poor’. Memorial’s current status is 29 per cent, and is projected to rise to 39 per cent by 2030 if funding levels do not increase.

Preventative and deferred maintenance

Memorial maintains a comprehensive preventative maintenance program, but as buildings and systems age, systems reach the end of their functional life and require significant repair or replacement. For example, with regular maintenance, elevators are estimated to last for 20-30 years. In buildings like the Arts and Administration Building that are more than 35 years old, the elevators are past their expected useful life and are failing with increasing regularity. This has significant implications for accessibility and safety.

When repair or replacement of building infrastructure items are postponed due to fiscal constraints, this is referred to as deferred maintenance. Ideally, organizations would be able to plan, execute and pay for maintenance as needs arise. Fiscal constraints limit the ability of organizations to conduct such maintenance and as a result, the solutions that might be less costly and time consuming become more expensive and difficult as time goes on. Deferring maintenance is a common practice at public institutions due to limited fiscal capacity.

At Memorial, the accumulated deferred maintenance liability for physical infrastructure is approaching a critical level. Memorial’s buildings require an investment of approximately $500 million  to fully address their degradation. A total of $24 million is required per year to maintain facilities at the 29 per cent FCI status.

In 2015-16, the annual provincial government grant dedicated to deferred maintenance was eliminated, requiring Memorial to divert operating funds from other institutional priorities in order to fund critical deferred maintenance. In an effort to partially address the issue of decreased funding, the Board of Regents approved an annual $500 Campus Renewal Fee for all students in 2017. Although all revenue from the new fee is directed to fund physical and technological infrastructure, the amount ($6.9 million in 2019-20) is well below the $24 million per year required to maintain Memorial’s physical infrastructure at the current 29 per cent FCI level. This has meant addressing only the highest, most urgent needs and leaving many critical projects untouched.

It is important to note that deferred maintenance refers to bringing buildings back to their original built status. Accessibility improvements, functional upgrades to meet current needs and full code compliance, including the removal of hazardous materials (such as asbestos), requires further investment. When possible, Memorial includes such upgrades while completing deferred maintenance to take advantage of cost savings within ongoing projects.

The implications of a large deferred maintenance liability include increased operating costs, increased downtime and increased risk to productivity and safety. The rate of deterioration also increases. For example, a roof leak can lead to damage to walls and floors that creates a larger, more expensive problem to be addressed. As the reliability of infrastructure decreases, so does occupant satisfaction, comfort and efficiency. This impacts the experience of students, scholars, employees and visitors and their ability to engage successfully in teaching and learning, research and public engagement.

At this time, the university is assessing other opportunities to mitigate risks posed by aging infrastructure, such as investing in new buildings, improving space use or demolishing facilities that have surpassed their design life. Even if these initiatives prove to be successful, there will remain a need to better address the major liability and risk that exists in the university’s building portfolio.

For more information about the Facility Condition Index and the impact of aging infrastructure, view this video from Keith Bowden, director of engineering and construction with Facilities Management.

Strategic approach to infrastructure renewal

Memorial continually seeks innovative approaches to solve infrastructure challenges. Some of these challenges include a need for space for the public to be able to engage with the university in low threshold ways; requirements for additional graduate accommodations; and the level of expenditure on external leases. 

For example, the Battery facility, now Signal Hill Campus, was purchased in 2012 based on the principle that the redevelopment project would have no negative impact on the university’s operating budget. Most of the money for the initial purchase came from Memorial’s endowment funds. These funds are managed to return yields to the university through investment. In this case, Memorial elected to invest $8.5 million of these funds into Signal Hill Campus. The long-term plan was to repay the endowment fund through revenues generated at Signal Hill Campus as well as from the cost savings achieved by moving units leasing space off-campus back to the St. John’s campus. An early donation of $1 million helped leverage additional funding.

The project was supported by the Government of Canada, through both the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund).

This support enabled Memorial to leverage other investment opportunities from private donors. In September 2018, Emera Inc. made a $7-million contribution to Memorial to support innovation and entrepreneurship. That contribution was immediately invested, which will allow Memorial to repay the endowment fund in 12 years instead of 30. As a result, and in keeping with Emera’s intention of directly supporting student entrepreneurship and innovation activities, a portion of the revenue from Signal Hill Campus can now be directed toward those activities.

Research infrastructure

Replacement of aging research infrastructure is enabled primarily through a combination of federal government funding opportunities and provincial matching funds, with NSERC Research Tools and Instruments (RTI) and Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) programs being the most common sources of capital. However, declining availability of federal funding – particularly in the RTI program - and of provincial matching funds for successful applications to federal granting agencies make renewal of infrastructure increasingly challenging. While research infrastructure overseen by the CREAIT Network – which is responsible for much of Memorial’s core research facilities - has greater-than-average longevity due to their careful management by dedicated scientific personnel, much of the critical research tools in the network are well past their projected useful lifespan and must be replaced; CREAIT’s approximately 50 pieces of major research infrastructure are of an advanced age -- about 11 years of age on average, with a median age of 12 and a maximum age of 26.

The new Core Sciences Facility will remedy many of the challenges being faced by Memorial’s researchers that are a result of inadequate research infrastructure and services in the aging buildings on St. John’s campus. However, though a new facility is being constructed, there are few new research tools being purchased for this building, and the majority of the core research infrastructure will be relocated to this building from old laboratories around campus. Additionally, a significant portion of Memorial’s research enterprise will not be moving into the new building, and this includes many of the core research resources in the Department of Earth Sciences and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. The laboratories, instrumentation, and core research facilities within them are experiencing periodic interruptions, setbacks and failures as a result of Memorial’s ongoing deferred maintenance challenges.

In order to address this ongoing challenge of replacement and renewal of aging research tools and infrastructure, Memorial launched the Research Infrastructure Renewal Strategy in 2018 by calling for the research community to provide a listing of current and future needs for tools and infrastructure, for the purpose of ensuring that Memorial’s funding for research tools is applied strategically in order to maximize the impact of investments into the research enterprise. Phase 1 of this plan requested a full listing of equipment and infrastructure needs, the strategic themes of the research projects that this equipment would support, and expected costs over five years. The completed listing detailed $47,538,200 in deferred acquisitions, $52,966,864 in additional deferred maintenance related to research equipment and an additional $230,975,000 in long-term, major infrastructure needs. While some of the items in these totals have been addressed, new infrastructure needs have since developed. It is critical to recognize the risks associated with the potential loss of research data and other research outputs that could result in long-term deferral of maintaining or replacing the infrastructure noted within.

In Phase 2, departments/schools/faculties will be asked to update their information from the previous year, to indicate what needs have been addressed and how these acquisitions were funded, and to identify the entry/entries of highest priority within their respective inventories. This will permit Memorial to focus support to those areas that will have the most strategically advantageous outcome for the research community and the institution.

IT infrastructure

Memorial has one of the largest and most complex information technology environments in Newfoundland and Labrador. IT infrastructure spans multiple campuses and is spread out over 30 data centres containing more than 2,000 servers and more than 15 petabytes of electronic data storage – the equivalent of 300 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with paper.

Image: Memorial has a peak of 3 devices per student, there are 35,000 devices connecting daily, and there are 1 billion firewall requests each week.

Approximately half of Memorial’s IT infrastructure is classified as end of life. Addressing the university’s core requirements among this end-of-life infrastructure requires a $10-15 million investment, with an additional $3-4 million required to address immediate, specific IT requirements in academic units such as engineering and science.

At the same time, Memorial must continue to look for opportunities to fund new infrastructure to keep up with increasing demand for services. For example, users now expect to access wifi everywhere on campus. While Memorial has over 1,500 access points, this would need to increase by 30 per cent to provide coverage of all buildings on the St. John’s campus alone.

High-performance computing infrastructure is used daily by researchers at Memorial and across the country. This IT infrastructure is critical to research and collaboration.

IT security threats are increasing at a rapid rate. There is a rise in the number of attacks, an increase in the complexity of these attacks as well as an increasing threat from mobile devices. Memorial has prioritized IT security infrastructure to ensure access to critical services remains secure.

For more information about Memorial’s deferred IT maintenance, view this 2018 video from Steve Greene, chief information officer and director of IT services.

Student spaces

Memorial’s first Teaching and Learning Framework identified the need for appropriate learning spaces – classrooms, study rooms and laboratories -- as well as informal learning spaces. These informal gathering spaces for students outside of the classroom play a major role in establishing a sense of connectedness to the institution and building personal relationships. These informal spaces have been upgraded in various locations across all campuses. For example, the Commons in the QEII Library is a student learning hub that assists with research, writing and computing support.

New residence facilities at St. John’s and Grenfell Campus were opened in 2015 and 2013 respectively. These facilities all feature private bedrooms with semi-private washrooms, reflecting the changing preferences of students. The new graduate student accommodations at Signal Hill Campus also feature private bedrooms and washrooms and a range of amenities.

Master plan

In 2007, a master plan update was completed for the St. John’s Campus, and more recently, in 2015, master plans were completed for Memorial University’s Marine Institute and Grenfell campuses. In 2018, Memorial opened its Signal Hill Campus, which has not yet been incorporated into overall university campus planning. The university is in the process of an effective master plan update for the St. John’s Campus and Signal Hill Campus. This will incorporate integration between campuses, the three university frameworks, infrastructure and program development principles, and guidelines for renewal of existing programs, which are critical to a successful redevelopment process.

Expected to be complete during fiscal year 2020-21, the development of this plan will include engagement with internal and external stakeholders of Memorial. The end result will involve, but not be limited to, a review of existing facilities, future expansion and future development as it relates to master planning, building accessibility, development of green and common areas, and a review of traffic and parking requirements consistent with existing traffic and parking plans.

University Building Strategy

The Core Science Facility, currently under construction on Memorial's St. John's campus, is a state-of-the-art facility that will significantly advance teaching, learning and research capacity across multiple disciplines. Preparing for the building's opening, along with the opening of the Animal Resource Centre, includes planning for the relocation of units currently located in the Chemistry/Physics, Science, Engineering and Applied Science and Biotechnology Buildings and the subsequent implications on other campus buildings. The University Building Strategy, currently under development, aims to address aging infrastructure, pursue cost reduction, and enable modern space utilization. The focus is balancing the cost of redevelopment and renewal with the demolition of aging physical infrastructure. More information about the University Building Strategy and how it is being developed is available online.

Infrastructure plan

Memorial has a multi-year infrastructure plan that identifies projects in the planning stage, in early stages, in progress and for future consideration. This is a planning function that ensures facilities will function to meet the needs of future academic priorities and missions as funds become available.

Changes in built infrastructure over time

New buildings/extensions (constructed or acquired post 2000)

Grenfell Campus

  • Chalets #1 to #8 (2001)
  • RecPlex (acquired in 2008, constructed in 1976)
  • Arts and Science Extension & Observatory (2012)
  • Student Residence Complex (2013)
  • BERI Lab Extension to Forestry Centre (2013)

Norris Point

  • Bonne Bay Marine Station (2003)

Signal Hill Campus

  • Signal Hill Graduate Accommodations (2015)
  • Emera Innovation Exchange (2018)
  • Johnson GEO Centre (gifted to Memorial in 2019, constructed in 2002 & ext. in 2006)

Ocean Sciences Centre

  • Pump House - Deep Seawater Supply (2012)
  • Cold Water Deep Sea Research Facility (2014)

St John's Campus

  • Music Building Extension (2005)
  • Bruneau Centre for Innovation and Research (2005)
  • Parking Garage (2011)
  • Engineering & C-Core Vertical Expansion (2014)
  • MacPherson College (2014)
  • Faculty of Medicine Extension (2015)
  • Utilities Annex Extension (2017)
  • Chemistry-Physics–University Centre Pedway (2018)

St John’s Campus (under construction)

  • Core Science Facility (2020)
  • Animal Resource Centre (2020)

Holyrood Marine Base

  • Main Building (2010)
  • Marginal and Breakwater Wharfs (2017)

Labrador Institute

  • Pye Farm (acquired in 2019)

Building removals

Grenfell Campus

  • Temporary Building Attached to Arts & Science Building (2019)

St. John’s Campus

  • Prince Philip Drive Pedestrian Overpass, East (2016)
  • Prince Philip Drive Pedestrian Overpass, West (2017)
  • Warehouse (2019)
  • Four residential properties (2019)


Post-Secondary Education Review

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000