Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute

Estevan, Saskatchewan

Southeast Regional College, through its Estevan, Sask. campus, has for years offered educational programs focused on the energy sector. Oil and gas staff training, certifications, and safety courses are all staples of the college’s programming. But the nature of the energy industry is changing. Alternative energies like wind, solar, geothermal and others may play an increasingly important role in meeting the province’s energy needs. The college wanted a training facility that could host current programs, but also deliver future programs whose lab and classroom requirements are not presently known. Alton and colleague Kurt Dietrich of Kreate Architecture and Design Ltd., were honoured to be chosen (from a variety of excellent architectural firms) to design the Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute.

Adaptability was a key feature applied to SETI’s design. The labs, classrooms, and lecture theatre are each able to adjust to whatever programming needs may be. For instance, a SETI classroom may be used to teach business accounting in the evening, but the next morning, it can be configured to teach a high-pressure service and maintenance course the next morning. Another example: one of the labs was designed specifically to teach fall arrest safety techniques from a tall structure. But the same lab can also be used to teach vehicle repair and maintenance. In this way, current programs can be delivered, but future courses on solar, wind or geothermal technologies will face no lab or classroom limitations.

The central design feature is SETI’s lecture theatre. Approximately three stories high, this circular room is encased in glass and takes full advantage of its southern exposure, allowing abundant light to naturally illuminate the space. Blinds help to both reduce the amount of light when not desired and the acoustic reverberations to which round rooms are subject. At the theatre’s ground floor, glass walls fold and slide easily to the sides, allowing the grand lobby and the theatre to become one uninterrupted space. Since SETI’s completion, the lecture theatre has been heavily used, from local health groups to oil companies.

SETI’s physical layout guarantees easy navigation throughout the space. Visitors will enter the building from the parking lot through the main entrance, where reception offices help them get orientated to the facility. Visitors then continue on to the grand lobby and from there to their lab or classroom. Labs and shops, where potentially loud activities will take place, are oriented at the far ends of SETI’s four extremities. The lecture theatre and grand lobby are strong landmarks that assist the visitor’s orientation.

Many of SETI’s users work in the petroleum sector. With this in mind, the interior was given a thoroughly industrial character with an aim to create a familiar learning environment. Much of the building is bright and open. Steel pipe handrails, exposed ducts, steel columns and industrial finishes are found throughout.

The exterior reflects SETI’s raison d’etre. Masonry and Tyndall stone symbolize the earth, the source of all resources, while elements of galvanized steel point to industry and energy extraction. The glass lecture theatre rises from the exact center of the building, flanked by two black towers reminiscent of oil drums: icons that reflect SETI’s mission of training Saskatchewanians for work in the energy sector.