No holidays for campus construction projects

While classes ended for Cal Poly students over the 2010 winter break, construction projects on campus continued as usual and took advantage of the absence of students.

Large-scale construction projects, such as the Recreation Center expansion, are priorities during school breaks. According to Facilities Planning & Capital Projects Associate Director Johan Uyttewaal, large deliveries that would otherwise impact pedestrians coincide with breaks.

Construction management on campus falls under the responsibilities of the facilities department. The Facilities Planning & Capital Projects and Facility Services offices supervise all construction and maintenance projects, from large ones like the Recreation Center expansion to routine building repairs.

“Accessibility is the biggest difference in the work we get done over breaks — our procedures stay the same,” Facility Services Director Mark Hunter said. “We can get into classrooms and offices — there’s more access to space.”

Facility Services is responsible for smaller maintenance and renovations on campus, and Hunter said some of these projects are done during breaks to avoid getting in the way of classes and campus life. During the break, Facility Services did a variety of maintenance work, including repairs on the campus-wide water heating system, tree trimming and working on taking out a wall at Backstage Pizza, Hunter said.

The biggest spikes in the work Facility Services does during the year are during the summer, winter and spring breaks, Hunter said.

Facilities Planning & Capital Projects handles the larger construction projects on campus, which require contracted engineers and construction. The four construction projects remaining in progress over the break were the Recreation Center expansion, the Center for Science project, which includes an upgrade of the chilled water pipes that supply the campus with air-conditioning, the new Meat Processing Center and the finishing touches on the Simpson Strong-Tie building.

According to Facilities Planning & Capital Projects associate director Johan Uyttewaal, the work on all four projects is currently on schedule, and the construction work over break was business as usual.

“We do try to take advantage of the breaks,” Uyttewaal said. “Big deliveries of materials have to coincide with breaks so they don’t impact pedestrians. We try to push during the breaks.”

Another factor Facilities Planning & Capital Projects takes into account when planning construction projects is the weather in San Luis Obispo. During Cal Poly’s winter break the city of San Luis Obispo saw a significant amount of rain and wind. However, Associate Director of Facilities Planning & Capital Projects Joel Neel said the projects handled by Facilities Planning were not affected by the weather.

“Each project has allotted rain days, and we haven’t even used up the ones we were given for December,” Neel said. “Sometimes with really crazy weather there are delays, but our projects weren’t impacted too much.”

Environmental management junior Molly Nilsson said she’d like to see more construction done over school breaks.

“I think that the construction happening right now is in students’ way,” Nilsson said. “Taking advantage of the school breaks is a good idea.”

Each construction project carried out by Facilities Planning & Capital Projects has a projected budget, which is available on the office’s website. For example, the Center for Science project has an estimated budget of $131,497,000. However, a contingency budget is also included in that number in case of emergency or last-minute costs, Neel said. The contingency budget acts as a “safety valve,” he said. This ensures the construction projects will not take additional money from the school or from students.

“Large construction projects cost so much, cutting their budgets isn’t something the CSU would do — it will just fund less building,” Neel said. “These large projects were funded before the budget problems; they’re doing brilliantly. I’m curious to see what kind of projects will be proposed in the future.”

All the current projects supervised by Facilities Planning & Capital Projects have yet to encounter any unforeseen costs, Neel said. Hunter said some of the smaller projects planned by Facility Services have been delayed until summer due to budget cuts.

Neel said the Recreation Center project has another year of construction ahead, and work is currently focused on the steel components, roof and floors. The Center for Science is still in the beginning phases, and work has begun on hazardous material abatement which will be followed by demolition of the north half of the area.

The Meat Processing Center will see the arrival of its walls this month.

The Simpson Strong-Tie Building is already being utilized, but a staircase is to be installed this month as well, Neel said.

Neel said he doesn’t anticipate the current construction projects obstructing more of the Cal Poly campus.

“We’ve already impacted the campus enough. The construction sites will basically remain as they are now; they won’t spread out too much more.”