NSCAD students relocated during building renovations

Film students experience difficulties while Academy Building undergoes $2.2M construction


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NSCAD bought the Academy Building for film students in 2003. It has been under renovation since July. (Photo: Michelle Hampson)

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design film students have been temporarily moved near the port campus as their building undergoes $2.2 million in renovations. The university is leasing a building directly across from the port campus from the Halifax Port Authority.

Students adjusting

The short-term relocation hasn't been easy on students. They had to shoot their films this term in a concrete room with uneven flooring. Windows lining the wall have loud trucks speeding by on the other side, making it difficult to record sound.

The room is about a third of the space they are used to working in and the echo created by the concrete walls makes recording sound a "nightmare," says Jessica Murwin, a third-year film student.

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A construction worker fixes the building Tuesday morning. Renovations are expected to be completed by Dec. 20. (Photo: Michelle Hampson)

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Here's a map of the various NSCAD campuses and temporary relocations during renovations.

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Here's a video showing the difficulty that NSCAD film students have experienced with shooting their films in the temporary "studio." The have been relocated for the fall term while the Academy Building, where students usually shoot, is renovated.

Mark Corless, 20, is the sound production manager for the last film of this term, which the Film I class finished shooting last week.

"In the studio they have one wall that's basically all windows, so it's kind of nice for the light issue, but it's bad for sound because sound will travel through glass like no one's business," he says.

Murwin says the move has changed the film program's atmosphere.

"We haven't really had that sense of community this year just because of the fact that we're down here in this isolated space."

The students do not have 24-hour access as they did in their own studio since the outside doors are locked around 7 p.m.

"It's things like that that make it really frustrating," says Murwin. "But I realize that it's a necessary step to be here."

Building in need of fix-up

The Academy Building, where the film students normally work, was built in 1878. It needed major infrastructure upgrades as well as spaces for research and classrooms. To bring the building up to code NSCAD replaced almost all electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. Upgraded sprinklers, fire alarms and a wider lobby are also in the renovation package.

The major aspects of renovation were meant to be completed by the time students returned in September, while minor renovations continued from September until November. However funding for the project as part of the $2 billion Knowledge Infrastructure Program wasn't received until June. Construction didn't start until July.

There were also other setbacks. Pre-construction surveys found asbestos, a mineral that may cause cancer if disturbed and exposed to over long periods of time, in the piping. Later test results showed more asbestos in the walls that set the project back five weeks.

Alexander Doyle, director of NSCAD facilities management, says, "You can do as much investigative work beforehand, but until you rip the place apart is when you find out what's in behind the walls.

"And so in order to make the project as clean and as fast as we can, the decision was made to move the students to a safe environment for this term and get back into the building as fast as possible."

Major improvements

The Film I course, for third-year students, takes place in the fall term and all films are required to be shot in the studio. Film II begins in the winter term and all films must be shot on location outside of the studio.

Renovations to the Academy Building are expected to be complete by Dec. 20, allowing students to return to their building by the winter term.

The wait may be worth it. Students will have the entire third floor dedicated to a new studio that will have a sound barrier. The second floor will have a new 48-seat theatre.

New editing and sound mixing rooms will exist. Archival space for a library will also be available. The building will be equipped with a new ventilation system and an elevator.

Fourth-year students in the Film III and IV courses have a choice between shooting on location or in the studio. Krista Kirby is the only student who chose to shoot in the studio and purposely chose to shoot her film last in the hopes that the studio will be finished by next term.

"It will be exciting to have it back. It's like being misplaced from home but it's going to be way nicer and cleaner and healthier."


They started ripping the walls apart last winter when students WERE in there. As we know asbestos is save IF undisturbed. The place was full of dust. All students and staff in the building were exposed to asbestos. I would just like to know who to sue in 20 yrs. when I'm diagnosed with cancer! And no, you don't have to rip the walls apart to know that stuff is in there. As a meager art student, even I know that back in the day when they built that building the plaster was mixed with asbestos! It was standard. By the time September rolled around the asbestos was gone. They kindly removed that while students and staff were present. Since the summer they have just been dragging there ass putting up gip rock, something that isn't hazardous!

Posted by film_student | Nov 17, 2021 5:00 PM AT

Asbestos? Are you kidding me? I just spent four years of a five year degree in that space. Great to know, now that I've graduated, what I've been exposed to. Thanks, former President Paul Greenhalgh, for spending an obscene amount of money on a useless port campus space while neglecting the fastest-growing (and frankly one of the most useful) programs at NSCAD. Look where the department (and the school, as a whole) is now.

Posted by Kerrin | Nov 18, 2021 9:16 AM AT

That's not what Mark's position was, and that isn't a real position. Mark was a sound recordist on the 2nd last shoot, and a director of photography on the last. The asbestos was definitely being removed while we were in there, and even without far warning, sometimes while there was classes in rooms right next to the one being renovated. I didn't see them start doing anything till August besides smashing up the place. I don't see why they couldn't start a regular time when they knew the funding was coming - it's a lame list of excuses I find it super common with construction in this city. It should be mentioned the building we're in looks like an abandoned asylum, and has poor ventilation and RIDICULOUS regulations about what we are allowed to do with the space. I feel awful the whole time I'm there, and all of us have gotten ill just from being in the place. I also think it's super unfair that we are charged full tuition for shitty facilities.

Posted by Karolina Szablewska | Nov 18, 2021 10:56 AM AT

Also, I forgot this: On top of trucks, buses, cars going past the building, there is construction being done on our half of the building anyway!!!! Try teach a class with a guy jack-hammering the wall the whole time.

Posted by Karolina Szablewska | Nov 18, 2021 11:02 AM AT

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