By Brian Harris, Staff Writer
For many, the quad at the center of campus is perpetually a fenced off mess of construction and work in progress piping. But, the concrete jungle may not last for too much longer, according to Michael Hayes. As Assistant Vice Chancellor for Master Planning and Capital Projects, Hayes is a key facilitator for the construction.
Officially called the “Main Quad Steam Line Replacement and Accessible Landscape Upgrade,” the construction across campus, which began in 2014, has proven to be incredibly divisive.
While many applaud the upgrade, the length and manner that it has affected the student body, cutting off the quad for the better part of four years, has frequently come under fire.
“…a student who started in the Fall of 2014 and potentially graduating in the Spring of 2018 has never truly had full access to the lower quad which is something I am quite cognizant of,” says Hayes of the length of time. But as it turns out, it was always projected to be a late 2017 affair.
Originally, the project was slated to be completed for the start of the Fall 2017 semester. A projection that for the most part appears to have been kept intact.
“Both the steam and condensate line projects and the Accessible Landscape Upgrades are substantially complete,” says Hayes. “The expectation is that the construction fencing will be taken down in the next couple of weeks.”
A couple of weeks is nothing compared to the length of which the school has waited. Summer 2014 feels like a long time away, and for many reading this, they may very well remember coming to school for the first time and seeing the fences surrounding the quad.
Interestingly, the school has tried to be as unobtrusive as possible when it comes to the matter of the construction. “The majority of the work has been completed over summers as to limit the disruption to the facilities during the academic year,” says Hayes.
But what exactly has taken four years to create? Simply put, its less to do with the “accessible landscape” and more to do with the “Main Quad Steam Line Replacement.”
The upgrades are actually made up of “several projects and phases that were focused on the replacement of distributed steam and condensate lines that feed steam from the power plant to the majority of our campus facilities which is used to provide heating and cooling,” says Hayes.
In terms of delays, the heating and cooling these steam lines play a major part in pushing the dates back. Specifically, as Hayes recounts, it all had to do with weather: “Delays in the time table were mostly caused by weather and how the projects needed to be phased in order to ensure the facilities were able to operate with heating and cooling derived from the steam.” The example Hayes used for a large delay to their schedule is that in the Fall of 2016 they had to stop their progress due to the weather, leading to the fenced off look that has become synonymous with the lower quad for many of the students here.
It’s safe to say that our campus will be better off with this project completed. Upgrades to our heating and cooling, along with the visual and aesthetic gains will be more than worth the sizable wait.
New lights, stairways and walkways are only a few of the positives of this massive undertaking. “I really would like to thank the University community for their patience,” said Hayes. Hopefully the new quad impresses, when it finishes in what should be the coming weeks.