Benson Project

Benson Building Renovation Project Questions & Answers

What does this renovation project involve?

This renovation project will create an internal, ground floor passage from the Benson building entrance at 320 Huron St. to the Warren Stevens building lobby at 55 Harbord St. The corridor will run alongside the Strength and Conditioning Centre in the Athletic Centre. Included in the renovation is a refurbished and accessible entrance with a reconfigured lobby.

The renovations will also create much needed new, air-conditioned office spaces, single-use, accessible washrooms, and better storage facilities.

The Benson building’s Huron St. entrance is expected to be reopened by late July/early August. Our goal is to have the full scope of the project complete by fall.

Hoarding will be put in place to block off access to the construction zone. The first step in the renovation will be the demolition of the existing walls and removal of old fixtures. This will involve removal of asbestos (abatement) from this area of the Benson building. The asbestos abatement process is expected to start mid-May. The construction zone will be sealed off from the rest of the building, as per U of T’s strict policies and procedures for all construction projects.

Why do U of T buildings have asbestos?

Asbestos is not unique to U of T buildings. Asbestos is found in many buildings built after World War II in Canada and internationally. This includes hospitals, schools, government buildings, banks, commercial properties and residential homes.

Due to its unique physical and chemical properties, asbestos was added to a wide variety of products to strengthen them, to provide heat or electrical insulation, to offer fire or chemical resistance, and/or to absorb sound. Many building materials manufactured during the peak years of use (WWII to the 1980s) contain asbestos, such as sprayed fire-proofing, thermal insulation, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, electrical insulation and roofing materials.

Does the removal of asbestos pose health risks to occupants and users of the Benson building?

Asbestos is not a risk when left undisturbed in building materials. It is only hazardous when airborne. That is why U of T has strict policies and procedures to ensure the safest level of asbestos abatement procedures for all construction projects.

The asbestos abatement at the Benson building will be supervised by registered contractors, a U of T project manager and our facilities management team. The construction zone will be sealed, under negative pressure and will have an isolated air supply system.

How concerned should people be working in a building that contains asbestos where renovations may disturb asbestos in old facilities?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance. It is only hazardous if it is airborne. It is most hazardous if it is inhaled in high quantities over long periods of time. This is not the situation now at the Benson building or ever at U of T. All operations and activities in the Benson building can carry on as usual because the construction zone will be sealed off from the rest of the building, as per U of T’s strict policies and procedures for all construction projects.

What do I do if I feel unsafe going to work at the Benson building?

The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our first priority. U of T has strict policies and procedures in place to ensure the safest level of asbestos abatement procedures for all construction projects. All normal operations and activities in the Benson building can carry on as usual.

If you still have concerns, we encourage you to review the EHS website (https://ehs.utoronto.ca), which contains a significant amount of helpful information about environmental health and safety at U of T.

After reviewing the information on the EHS website, should you still have concerns, please speak with your supervisor or contact Human Resources.

I work in close proximity to the renovation zone in the Benson building. Should I be concerned about noise levels during this renovation?

Construction always brings a certain amount of noise. For the most part, the demolition, which tends to be the loudest portion of a renovation project, will be performed using hand tools, which will keep renovation noise levels down. We anticipate that the noise levels will be roughly equivalent to the noise levels typically found in the Strength and Conditioning Centre during peaks periods of activity.

When prolonged or intense periods of noisy work is underway, we will arrange for it to be scheduled during non-regular business hours as much as possible.

Who should I contact if I have questions about the project?

If you have questions or concerns about this renovation project please contact Alex Vickers, Facility Manager, Athletic Centre at 416.946.5122 or alex.vickers@utoronto.ca