Campus Construction Update, April 20, 2020
University Communications' Dave Blanks welcomes Michelle Novacek, director of real estate and external communications, and Jeff Pierce, director of planning, design and construction, to the podcast. They share updates on the renovation progress for Sanford Hall and address why campus construction projects are ongoing during the time of COVID-19.
Dave Blanks: Hey, folks. This is Dave Blanks from University Communications back with another Campus Construction Update. This time I am joined by Michelle Novacek. Hello, Michelle.
Michelle Novacek: Well hello, Dave.
Dave Blanks: I'm glad to have you. And you're not alone. We also have Jeff Pierce. Hello, Jeff.
Jeff Pierce: Hello, Dave. Good afternoon.
Dave Blanks: Good afternoon. So, I'm glad to have you all. I guess, Michelle, what is your title?
Michelle Novacek: I think we're going to go with director of external relations.
Dave Blanks: That sounds good. And, Jeff, your title, sir?
Jeff Pierce: I am the director of planning, design and construction.
Dave Blanks: And, usually, on the Campus Construction Update, we've been focusing on west side construction. We're not actually going to talk about the west side stuff. We're going to be talking about Sanford Hall. When did that start?
Jeff Pierce: The actual construction started last summer, but we'll do an opening, a partial opening for the first floor December of 2020. Then, we'll roll into final construction on the other floors. We'll finish that up spring of '21.
Dave Blanks: Do we want to hit, like, why the building needed to be updated or what's being done to it?
Jeff Pierce: Yeah, there was a definite need in space requirements for the English and language arts department headed by Dean Specht. So they identified, you know, probably two, three years ago that offices were undersized. The building was poorly lit. The building was a 1960s building. The HVAC, electrical, everything needed to be upgraded. ADA access was very poor. The elevators we had in there half the time would go out. And so we had to put attendants in before we shut the building down in case if somebody needed to use the elevator to make sure they didn't get trapped in the elevator. Definite renovation was needed at this point in time. And one of the things we added in was brand-new elevators. And you'll see that going up right now. They've completed the exterior tower for a brand-new elevator system. And so that's in place at this point in time. And we're doing mechanical, electrical and plumbing on all five floors.
Michelle Novacek: Like to me, the thing that stood out the most is it doesn't have a fire suppression system in it. And it's a building where you're running so many students through there.
Jeff Pierce: Right.
Dave Blanks: Yeah, that seems like a necessity.
Michelle Novacek: Oh yeah.
Dave Blanks: Where are we currently on it?
Jeff Pierce: Yeah, we're on track, like I said, to do a partial opening in December. So like I said, we're probably, I would say, a little bit over 50%, 40%–50% complete with the construction. We've got major heating and air conditioning units that have been ordered. There have been a couple of delays due to COVID-19 on some of our resources, but Vannoy, who is the contractor, has been able to overcome that. We're progressing, like I said, to have that partial opening come December of 2020.
Dave Blanks: So, you did mention COVID-19, and maybe we can move into a little bit of how our construction is continuing, how that's working with consideration to the coronavirus. So, who wants to take that one? Jeff, do you want to take that one again?
Jeff Pierce: We can, yeah, we can start off. And me and Michelle, we can tag team it. We had this same question asked, Dave, is why is our construction projects ongoing? Why is it considered an essential function? And you know, you got to consider health and safety for the workers. You've got to look at the economic situation, you know, not only locally, but nationally.
Jeff Pierce: And I'll start with the health and safety of our workers. Right now, you know, with all the students off and the faculty and staff off campus, it's open for our workers to come in unimpeded. And our sites are open. There's a lot of fresh air, very little individual contact. They're able to exercise the social distancing at the same time. And then we've also implemented on our larger projects, contractors have implemented medics that are doing health and safety checks as people are coming in in the morning. They shoot their temperatures. And we've had a couple of our workers come in that had elevated temperatures, and they were turned around and sent back home.
Jeff Pierce: And so we've done a really great job of protecting our other workers on site and also the social distancing. I walked through over on the west side of campus, new P-3 project, and you know we exercise the social distancing. We had our masks on, our rubber gloves. Most everybody that was in there working had some type of face covering, respirator on that was doing their jobs. And they were in their certain areas doing that. So, very safe at this point in time, following the guidelines as put out per our state leadership and our natural leadership. Michelle, if you want to kind of cover about the other states.
Michelle Novacek: Oh, it's interesting. Yeah. Construction is just such a huge economic driver. And looking all across the United States, it looks like there are only five states that have declared construction as not critical and essential. And those states sort of all border New York, except for Washington state. So, it's not unusual that construction would continue. It's kind of a gift, I think. There are a lot of local subs that are being used on our jobs. And I think it's great that they can continue to be employed during this time.
Dave Blanks: I'm happy to hear that they are still on the site, and they are being careful and safe. It sounds like y'all have taken some appropriate measures for that.
Michelle Novacek: Well they are. And if you think about it, construction workers have safety drilled into them all the time. They're used to wearing protective gear. So this isn't a big stretch. The only thing for them is just, you know, the gloves, the masks and then, a lot of them were wearing gloves already, but now they're wiping their tools down more. And we've added extra sinks so they can wash more on the job, so —
Dave Blanks: Right.
Jeff Pierce: One of the things that a lot of times we miss on, you know, people overlook on construction projects, it takes a long time to get one pulled together and get things planned out and get the logistics. And so, if we came in here and we stopped a project that's already got authorization and funding that's been appropriated by North Carolina state legislation and the Board of Governors, if we stopped it and then try to start it back up, there would be a huge financial burden to do that, more than what we've got money allocated. So it would take money away from it, and so we would get less product. There is a huge financial reason why we don't do that. As long as we can address safety and health for our workers and our employees, and we've got that covered, that's ingrained into each and every project, but the financial responsibility, the financial reasons behind it, a lot of people overlook that.
Dave Blanks: Well, Jeff, Michelle, thank y'all both so much for being here today and sharing updates on Sanford and then just how our construction is dealing with the current COVID-19 situation. I appreciate y'all's time, and we'll do it again. Is there anything else you want to share before I say goodbye to y'all?
Jeff Pierce: ASU nation, be safe and practice good hygiene.
Michelle Novacek: I'm just so happy to talk to another person. I love you, Dave.
Dave Blanks: Aw, I love you too, Michelle. Y'all, thanks so much for your time. We'll do it again. All right?
Michelle Novacek: Bye.
Jeff Pierce: Thank you, Dave. Have a good one. Be safe.