Archive for Thursday, January 31, 2008

Work heats up despite cold temperatures

The skyline around Baker University is taking a new look with the new living and learning center being constructed north of Harter Union. Also visible is Parmenter Hall.

The skyline around Baker University is taking a new look with the new living and learning center being constructed north of Harter Union. Also visible is Parmenter Hall.

January 31, 2008

As work on the second level begins on its new residence hall, Baker University Director of Physical Plant Gary Walbridge says the construction is right on schedule.

Winter weather has tried to slow down the progress of Baker's new $6.3 million, 190-bed living and learning center, but it hasn't stopped the construction workers from remaining on schedule for the Aug. 1 completion date.

"It's probably right on schedule," Walbridge said. "As you can see, they are going up to the second story. They hope to get the roof trusses up by Valentine's Day. If they do that they are still on schedule. The bottom line is it's going well."

Maxim Construction, out of Bucyrus, is leading the charge in building the new facility. They broke ground in November and have been hard at it since then, according to Walbridge.

He said the company has been working every day of the week, including weekends. The workers were allowed to take a couple of days off work.

"They have worked everyday except Christmas Day, New Years Day and one Sunday, due to the weather," Walbridge said. "They've had somebody working every day of the week."

Although the construction is remaining on schedule, it hasn't been without a few problems or setbacks. Most of those have been weather related, especially from the snow and moisture in the construction zone.

"The snow and mud have slowed them down a bit," Walbridge said. "When they come in, they have to clear the snow off the building and the wood. They track mud on it, but they don't want to leave that on there, so they stop and scrape it off."

Besides the mud and snow, the workers have also had to overcome other problems. After they broke ground, they discovered the foundation of a former Baker building. That slowed down the progress, briefly, as they had to destroy the old foundation before advancing.

"They have been fighting the mud," Walbridge said. "Another thing that slowed them down was that Wood Hall used to be there one time. When they started digging down, they found part of the foundation, so they had to haul that out. Then they had to bore underneath Dearborn Street, because they had to relocate some of the phone line and fiber optics. That stuff has slowed them down a little bit."

Another problem has been transporting large machinery in and out of the construction zone, while avoiding the students walking from Gessner Hall to Harter Union.

Walbridge said the Baker maintenance department is taking care of that problem. They will be building a sidewalk from Gessner to the union to allow students to walk on the south side of Dearborn Street.

"It's a pretty tight location with Seventh and Dearborn streets right there," Walbridge said. "When they start bringing in those high-lift trucks to lift materials up, they have to close the street. Then we get the students walking up the middle of the street from Gessner, as they've always done.

"The city has loaned us barricades to close the street when we need to do that," Walbridge said. "So, hopefully, we will start putting in a sidewalk south of Dearborn next week. That way we will get the students off the street and on to the sidewalk. We need that sidewalk anyway."

Baker's new living and learning center will be similar to Avila University's new facility. Hollis and Miller (Overland Park) were the architects for that building and Maxim Construction were the builders, too. Baker is also using the same developer as Avila, Student Suites, out of Blue Springs, Mo.

Walbridge has been happy with the cooperation and success with the three entities. He said they have built enough college residence halls that it's become second nature for them.

"Between the three of them, they have developed a relationship of working together for the last 10 years building residence halls," Walbridge said. "Although the architecture may vary from campus to campus, the buildings are kind of like a motel. That's all they do so it makes it easy to build them faster. They have it down to a pretty good science."

Baker's new facility is scheduled to be completed at the beginning of August. The university is currently working on deciding who will live in the building, but Walbridge said that should be decided during the next month.

"The contract we signed calls for Aug. 1," Walbridge said. "They should hand us the key Aug. 1 and it will be ours. There are penalties built into the contract if they don't have it ready. That's why they stay ahead of the game and work everyday."

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