The New Vic Project
June 1891. On the slope of Mount Royal, just steps from McGill University’s main campus, construction began on an important site of healing, helping, and educating: the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Did you know? The Royal Vic has always been a place of multiculturalism. In 1894, the first year of the hospital’s existence, more than half of the patients admitted hailed from twenty-four countries other than Canada. From the very beginning, a close bond would unite the Royal Vic and McGill. The hospital’s mission: to heal people without discrimination based on creed or ethnicity. The mission of McGill’s Faculty of Medicine: pioneering new ways of healing and forging new paths in medical research and education. What would follow is more than a century of collaboration in service to society.
Over 130 years later, the landscape is changed and the vast complex of the Royal Vic has been vacant since 2015. An idea is born… to revitalize this historic site.
Today, this idea is being brought to life. Under the guidance and in collaboration with government authorities, McGill University is developing a proposal to reimagine a portion of the former hospital site as a state-of-the-art research, teaching, and learning hub dedicated to Sustainability Systems and Public Policy.
In line with the Royal Victoria Hospital’s original vocation as a place of healing, the New Vic Project aims to help heal the planet, by tackling the greatest challenges that threaten it.
McGill’s Strategic Academic Plan states that no university can lead globally in the 21st century without putting sustainability at the centre of its operations, research, and teaching.
This is our commitment, as the New Vic Project helps us redefine what an open, connected, and purposeful university can be.
The New Vic Project is an essential piece of the Master Plan: an overarching vision and collaborative framework for the entire Royal Vic site, overseen by the Société Québécoise des infrastructures.
McGill’s new complex will be built for connection and exchange between academics, students, and staff. Open, connected, and purposeful — it will serve the university community while inviting partners, community groups, and citizens to share in the physical and intellectual vibrancy of the site.
Classic patient wards and medical facilities will be reimagined and completely reinvented into a vibrant space – creating opportunities for creative collisions and greater innovation.
A model of urban integration, the completed project will honour the famed 19th century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his vision for the mountain as being the “green lungs of the city.” Did you know? The creation of Mount Royal Park began in the 1870s, when Frederick Law Olmsted, also responsible for New York City’s Central Park, was commissioned to design it. The guiding principles he established are still relevant for today’s transformation of the site and speak to the importance of planning for the long term, respecting the “genius loci” (spirit of the place), prioritizing access for all and providing “leisure and well-being for city dwellers.”
The New Vic will serve as a model for how heritage buildings can be responsibly re-purposed, with new buildings that will feature the most advanced standards of sustainable design and construction. Did you know? Archaelogical and historical evidence point to a long-standing presence, dating back 4,000 to 5,000 years, of Indigenous peoples on Mount Royal. To achieve this, special attention will be paid to the balance between functionality, nature, heritage and recognition of the Indigenous history of the land.
At the end of this major project, McGill University aims to obtain the highest LEED and WELL certifications. Did you know? The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system is an international certification that aims to promote efficient use of energy, materials and water. These construction standards apply to new and renovated buildings. Did you know? The WELL Building Standard is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. When drawing up plans for a building that aims to be WELL certified, the health and wellness of its occupants must be prioritized.
Not only will the project provide world-class spaces for education and research, it will be a space that is rooted in its community, its history, its city, and its territory.
To tackle global challenges, we need to bring people together based on the problems they are working on, and not solely the disciplines they specialize in.
Across its campuses, McGill has many of the necessary ingredients to take on sustainability challenges. Multidisciplinary teams are already working with research and industry partners, both locally and globally… and they are just getting started.
The New Vic will significantly increase our capacity to put this talent and infrastructure together in one place — to give a physical home to this community of learning and practice. The project is a major piece of McGill’s Master Plan and will allow the entire University to continue evolving, enabling 21st century research and teaching methods to be developed, tested, and put into practice.
Imagine an environment where a student can participate in the design of a novel, clean engine, and see it move seamlessly from computer model, to prototype, to market – sharing spaces and ideas with green chemists, programmers, biofuel experts, industry partners, alumni mentors, and energy policymakers at every step of the way.
Unique learning experiences will become commonplace at the New Vic thanks to dynamic learning spaces, courses, and programs that will stimulate a revolution in pedagogy and prepare students to tackle complex problems in new ways.
Young people already have the ideas and motivation to change the world. They have their eyes on the impact they can make, such as rapid transitioning to low or zero carbon economies, and addressing climate change and its outcomes. McGill fuels this drive and the New Vic will accelerate this work. We will continue to take our future leaders beyond expertise alone, nurturing their capacity for collaboration, creativity, and resilience.
With this project, one of the world’s leading universities is committing to reinvent the very notion of a university — its structure, purpose, and how it serves its students and society.
Why? Because today’s global problems are too complex to be tackled using the traditional university structures of faculties and departments. Their solutions demand creative and sustained effort by leading thinkers and practitioners across a multitude of disciplines. They demand innovation and partnerships across the public and private spheres. They demand the creative fire and energy of students unconstrained by convention and custom.
The New Vic Project will be a catalyst for rethinking and reimagining the university model for the 21st century — dissolving boundaries between disciplines, communities and institutions, as we focus on shared goals benefiting all of humanity.
From healing people to healing the planet
Our world is at an inflection point. COVID-19 has shown us how our society can be reshaped in rapid and dramatic ways — and what can be achieved when experts from across sectors unite in the face of an urgent problem.
The swift acceleration of research and innovation has been a flare of hope in a time of uncertainty. And while the pandemic may be the defining story of today, it is increasingly evident that climate and sustainability challenges — and our response to them — will define the century to come.
The sustainability issues we face are more complex than ever before, but our ability to meet them has never been greater.
With their mission to connect brilliant minds and drive discovery and innovation for the collective good, universities like McGill are our best chance to solve seemingly intractable problems. And while no one institution — no matter how skilled — will solve our sustainability and environmental challenges alone, each must play a part in a global push for change.
McGill’s role is clear: we have an exceptional ability to pair outstanding strengths in sustainability-focused science and engineering with the social science and policy expertise to translate knowledge into real-world sustainability impact. We have the people, the partners and the vision to make important contributions to the global pursuit of answers. But we need to give our teams every possible resource, including the space, to get the job done.
Building from the Royal Vic’s original vocation as a place of healing, anchored in our shared values of service to the community, the New Vic will help pave the way towards a better future for Montrealers, Quebecers, Canadians and the entire world.
Sustainability at the New Vic
How can we ensure the prosperity of people today without endangering the well-being of our neighbours and of future generations?
Confronting climate change will not be enough. A sustainable future depends on our ability to address the impact of human activity on the environment in tandem with its economic and social impacts. This is why the New Vic will center on two academic pillars:
McGill is taking a “Systems” approach to sustainability, taking into account the relationships between sustainability challenges and goals – understanding that actions towards a goal in one system will often impact many interconnected systems. We will build on the interdisciplinary strengths that McGill has spent decades developing, providing a research and learning environment where new ideas grow and new partnerships flourish. The New Vic will house three research clusters that are central to sustainability: Molecular/Materials Systems, Earth Systems, and Urban Systems. These clusters will develop greater collaboration, share resources (equipment, space, personnel, and administration) and have access to wet, dry, and computational laboratory spaces.
Driven by the Max Bell School of Public Policy, we will bring policy expertise into direct conversation with Sustainability Sciences. This will ensure that new discoveries and technologies are communicated to those who are ultimately responsible for putting them into practice. At the same time, scientists will learn from policy experts, so their work can be informed by the realities of the governments, communities and citizens who will adopt them. Tomorrow’s policy leaders will be informed by a dynamic multidisciplinary environment, fueling evidence-based policy from the local to the national level.
The new McGill complex may only be opening its doors in 2028, but that certainly isn’t holding back our researchers, students and staff from being active in the field. Many collaborative projects are already underway and new ones are being launched regularly.
Here are just a few examples:
Transforming crab shells from an invasive species into biodegradable plastic
Professor Moores' research focuses on green chemistry, which aims to reduce the ecological and health impacts of the chemical industry. She has received national media coverage for her work on the transformation of shrimp shell waste into biodegradable plastics.
An alarming proportion of the plastic used around the world ends up in the oceans.
This is why a research team led by Audrey Moores, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry in McGill’s Faculty of Science, in partnership with Parks Canada, aims to turn shells of the invasive European Green Crab into a new biodegradable plastic.
Creating sustainable bioplastics while reducing the damage caused by an invasive species would achieve two important goals at once. And possibly even a third… creating a pathway for the crustacean waste to generate revenue for the local community.
McGill Sustainability Projects Fund
In 2010, McGill established the Sustainability Projects Fund — making it possible to support and finance sustainability initiatives led by members of the McGill community.
Not only does the fund provide opportunities for McGillians to actively engage in sustainable development projects on campus, but it also encourages individuals to be agents of change in their own study and work environment.
Over the last decade, more than 250 innovative projects have been funded. Just some examples:
- Biodiesel production projects
- McGill Feeding McGill
- Development of a permaculture course
- Green Labs initiative
- Creation of a new full-time position, a Sustainable Procurement Officer, responsible for working on both the policy and community level to develop sustainable alternatives in the procurement process at McGill
Explore other Sustainability Fund projects.
Tracking forest fires from space
A McGill PhD candidate in Natural Resource Sciences, Morgan Crowley has developed a new technique to quickly map wildfires from space by piecing together freely available satellite data. In doing so, she has created a global dashboard that will help people track wildfires that threaten their lands.
In addition to participating in the "Forest Fires from Space" project, Ms. Crowley is also part of a team of graduate students working on the McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative (MSSI).
McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative (MSSI) Did you know? Since 2017, over $10 million has been allocated to various research projects led by McGill students and professors thanks to MSSI funds.
Fostering a transition toward sustainability – toward patterns of development that promote human well-being while conserving the life support systems of the planet – is one of the central challenges of the 21st century. But why has progress been so slow? To a large extent, it is because earlier approaches to sustainability failed to appreciate the deep interconnections between human activity and environmental systems.
Only by taking into consideration the interrelated but often poorly understood and shifting relationships between the many aspects of development will the implementation of complex scientific and technological advances be sustainable for future generations.
McGill has risen to the challenge by creating the McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative (MSSI), a hub of expertise and excellence that takes a multi-disciplinary, multi-sector approach to sustainability.
The MSSI brings together experts from across McGill’s Faculties, providing support and funding for transdisciplinary teams to tackle some of the most complex and challenging issues in sustainability. Providing support for McGill researchers from both the sciences and humanities to work together to develop significant, impactful, and socially acceptable advances that move society towards a sustainable model of existence.
Learn more about the MSSI by visiting their website.
The original construction of the Royal Victoria Hospital represented a colossal technical endeavour. Now that the time has come for a transformation, the task facing planners and workers remains impressive. We are confident that the local and international attention brought to Montreal, Quebec, and Canada through the re-development of the Royal Victoria Hospital will reinforce the reputation of the city, province, and country as global destinations for innovation and knowledge creation.
An ambitious project, some will say, but one that the University has been carefully planning for years. Initially approached by the government in 2012, McGill had already expressed interest in this unique heritage site. Facing a space deficit, recognized by the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES), the University was and is still looking for a viable solution to this problem.
In 2015, the University’s Feasibility Study was approved. A task force was struck, resulting in a series of consultations and workshops to craft an academic vision for the project that would help advance McGill’s mission as a public university. In April 2016, a promising academic vision emerged, advancing the themes of Sustainability Systems, Public Policy, and Innovations, framed by six guiding principles.
- A project for Montreal and Quebec
- Embracing the challenges of sustainability
- An idea factory that attracts, connects and inspires
- Participation and transparency
- Balancing heritage, functionality and sustainable architecture
- An exemplary project for sustainable mobility and urban integration
In June 2018, the government of Quebec authorized McGill to develop an Opportunity Study (“dossier d’opportunité”) for a portion of the Royal Victoria Hospital site. At the same time, the government mandated the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) to develop a Master Plan for the entire site. Did you know? The submission of the Opportunity Study is a required step, as outlined by the Conseil du trésor in their « Directive sur la gestion des projets majeurs d’infrastructure publique.» The Study is a document that outlines the relevance of the project, makes a recommendation on the best long-term option, provides a cost analysis and proposes a project delivery schedule.
In close collaboration with the SQI, the city of Montreal, and numerous internal and external stakeholders, the McGill project team has completed the Opportunity Study and submitted it for government consideration.
The government of Quebec authorizes McGill to develop a proposal to transform a portion of the former Royal Victoria Hospital site and grants the university $37M to complete an Opportunity Study (“Dossier d’opportunité).” The government mandates the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) to develop a Master Plan for the entire Royal Victoria Hospital site.
Internal User Groups are formed to work with architects to develop the Functional and Technical Program (FTP). This document includes the program of required spaces, key adjacencies, special equipment needs, and technical requirements and will be submitted as part of the Opportunity Study.
The New Vic Project Office is established and a team of professionals is hired.
Diamond Schmitt / Lemay Michaud Architects is selected as the preferred proponent for delivery of architectural services following a rigorous two-stage evaluation process undertaken by an independent selection committee.
Selection and hiring of engineering and consultant firms, including: Decasult-Strategia Conseil, ERA Architects, Atelier l'Enclume, Claude Cormier Associés, Pageau Morel-Bouthillette Parizeau and ARUP-Cima+.
McGill's Principal and the project team host four Town Hall Events for the McGill community.
Functional and Technical Program is completed, this marks the end of the User Group Mandate.
The Design Advisory Team (DAT) is formed. This is an internal group of academic and administrative stakeholders, supported by a larger group of internal experts, that will continue to work closely with the Project Team and Architects on the design of the new pavilion.
McGill’s Opportunity Study is submitted to the government for consideration.
The SQI’s Master Plan and McGill’s Opportunity Study are submitted to l’Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) and the public consultation period begins.
If the Opportunity Study is approved, McGill begins developing the Business Case ("Dossier d’affaires").
Start of early works.
Submission of the Business Case for approval.
If the Business Case is approved, McGill begins the call for tender process.
Construction work begins.
End of construction work.
Inauguration of the new complex and move-in.
Engaging with our community
McGill wishes to anchor itself in the community to make this ambitious project a source of pride for all of us. An engagement plan is being developed with the objective of rallying the McGill community, interest groups, community groups as well as all Montrealers, Quebecers, and Canadians around the New Vic Project and its sustainable development efforts.
If you have questions or comments, or if you would like to get involved, please get in touch with the project team using the following form.
Meet our team
This is our team (photos coming soon!) and we are pleased to meet you. Together, we share a commitment to collaboration and communication. If you would like to exchange with us, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Bruce Lennox, Dean, Faculty of Science and Academic Lead, New Vic Project
Pierre Major, Executive Director
Christine M. Lanctôt, Administrative Officer, Office of the Executive Director
Anna Bendix, Director, Planning and Development
Pamela Chiniah, Administrative Assistant, Office of the Director
Carole Graveline, Director, Community Relations and Partnerships, Communications & External Relations
Sarah Heiberg, Associate Director, Change Management, New Vic Project
Karim Moussaly, Senior Finance Officer (New Vic and Fiat Lux Projects)
A number of professional firms are contributing to the realization of this major undertaking:
Decasult-Strategia Conseil – Project management
Diamond Schmitt / Lemay Michaud Architects – Architects
ARUP-Cima+ – Structural engineering
ARUP-Cima+ – Civil engineering
Atelier l’Enclume – Urban design
Claude Cormier Associés – Landscape architecture
Pageau Morel-Bouthillette Parizeau – Mechanical and Electrical engineering
ERA Architects – Heritage consultant
Stereo – Website design and development