Campus Construction Update, October 6, 2021
Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Matt Dull chats with University Communications' Dave Blanks about the construction progress for App State's New River Hall, slated to open in fall 2022, and preparation of the site of the former Gardner and Coltrane halls — an area that will become surface parking.
Dave Blanks: Hey folks, what's up? I'm Dave Blanks from University Communications back with a Campus Construction Update, joined as I am so often joined, by Mr. Matt Dull. Hello, Matt.
Matt Dull: Hello, Dave. Good to be back.
Dave Blanks: Knocking over my trash can. Hello. Yes, I'm glad you're back.
Matt Dull: Starting the semester, although we're in October now, which is kind of crazy to think about. We're halfway through the semester here, I think this week.
Dave Blanks: Yep.
Matt Dull: Fall break's next week. So, the semester is flying by.
Dave Blanks: It is, and it looks a little different — some changes over on the west side construction site. Gardner/Coltrane is no more.
Matt Dull: That's right, yeah. All of the footings, everything is gone. I mean, everything is down and they are now actively working on everything they need to do to make that into a parking lot. So, we're actually putting in a new water line that's going to go from New River Hall up to the Quinn Recreation Center, up on the hill, as a kind of a backup loop, so that it always helps us when different buildings have to come down for repairs, or if you've got a break in the water line somewhere to have more of a looped system, so you can keep ... There's a lot of people living over there, and the last thing you need is no water because there's an issue with one of the water lines over there.
Matt Dull: So we're adding in an extra line that really kind of creates a loop on west campus. So that's going in right now. It kind of crosses, or bisects, the site where Gardner/Coltrane was. All the debris is gone from Gardner/Coltrane. So it's truly just a site that they're putting in that water line and they're also putting in all the stormwater drains that'll help when we put a new surface parking lot there, which that'll be kind of the next step this fall. They're now doing all the rough grading to get that, kind of, close to the right elevations that it needs to be over there. Then they're also putting in those stormwater lines so they can pull all the water away when it does rain up here and sheds off those parking lots. So all the underground utilities going in now. The next thing they'll do is that rough grading to get it to the appropriate kind of elevations.
Matt Dull: And we're going to get it all the way to a kind of a base course of asphalt, hopefully this fall, so that we can use that as a lay down spot, but also not be tracking a lot of mud and dirt kind of on and off the site and on the Stadium Drive.
Matt Dull: So, that's kind of the next month, or month and a half or so. We'll be getting that parking lot, kind of that base coat of the parking lot. We'll wait to the very end and do that final, really nice top coat and putting in the lines and that kind of stuff for the parking spaces and the traffic islands and that kind of stuff. We'll do that last, once all the construction equipment and materials are totally off-site and get that nice and perfect for students for fall of 2022.
Dave Blanks: Very nice. Well, do you want to head over to New River, which we can stay over on the same side of the road?
Matt Dull: Yeah, we'll pop over to New River Hall. Building 400, New River Hall. Things are really progressing over there. So we've got all of the framing done, all of the kind of roof decking done, we've got roof membrane over the entire building, so there's no water coming down from the top of the building. We've got Tyvek wrapping. That installation is really wrapping up this week throughout the whole building. Then window frames are already in on most of the building and we'll kind of continue to finish window frames throughout the building. That really sets us up to then install the actual windows themselves with the glass of the windows. That will all be installed, really starting this week. We'll actually start having our first deliveries of glass this week.
Matt Dull: This week, we'll really be focused on getting a mock-up room. We're trying to get a room mocked up where you've got the windows in and we've got the air conditioning and heating units in, and we've got kind of roughly everything kind of put in into one room. So we can go in, look at it, make sure it's exactly what we want it to look before we replicate it 400 times. Let's make sure this is exactly what we want. It also gives us a chance to show all of the different trades and subcontractors that have something to do with that system, right? So you've got HPAC people that are in there, you've got electricians, and plumbers, and the window folks that are actually putting in the windows — all of that's integrated, right? All that has to be done correctly and it actually gives us an opportunity for those trades to come in and look at how it's mocked up, how everything should kind of be, kind of fit together, so that when they're replicating this time after time and time again, they're replicating it correctly.
Dave Blanks: Right, it's like the practice room.
Matt Dull: It's the practice room. So that's going to be the focus this week.
Dave Blanks: Now would you, as a resident, know that your room was the practice room and would it be a positive thing or would it be a, like, "Oh, this is where they were trying to figure stuff out in my room." Or would it be, "My room got so much attention that it was like ..." They say writing is rewriting. Well, if you are doing it with a room, it's like, well, I don't know, renovating?
Matt Dull: Yeah.
Dave Blanks: Renovating is re-renovating.
Matt Dull: That's right. Hopefully it's the latter. Hopefully it's that —
Dave Blanks: I hope.
Matt Dull: ... we really dialed in to the exact specification we wanted throughout the building and that room. And no one would ever know if they had the sample.
Dave Blanks: Right, sample room. Yeah.
Matt Dull: The sample room or the mock-up room that it ... You know, before we actually had any of the buildings constructed, or even in progress, we actually created a... I say we, the royal we, right? So, our contractor team, our developer team, they actually mocked up a full room — windows, blinds, flooring, beds, everything — in the basement of Summit Hall.
Dave Blanks: No!
Matt Dull: So, we literally put it all together and took pictures and looked at it and made sure everything was right, made sure the ... "Hey, we think this is where we want to put that towel rack, but does that make sense once you're in the room? We think this is where we want the thermostat. Does that make sense? We think this is the way we want to orient the Ethernet ports and where we want the W-iFi router to be."
Matt Dull: So all of that was totally mocked up in the basement of Summit Hall, which students don't have access to, really, no one has access to, it's really a big storage room we have down there that we use for beds and mattresses and furniture. We took a lot of that out and we mocked up an entire room, bathroom and everything.
Dave Blanks: Wow.
Matt Dull: To really allow us to go in and just make sure, "Hey, again, we're making over a thousand of these rooms over the next three years. Before we do that, how does this feel and fit? And does the furniture actually fit in the room, when you get everything in there?" It all works on paper, but it really makes a big difference to get it physically in place, get actually all the furniture, all the flooring, all of the blinds, and everything in the room and say, "Does this work?"
Matt Dull: And then we actually had different teams of people going. We had student staff, we had our Res Life staff, we had our maintenance folks, we had our entire design team.
Dave Blanks: Well, it wasn't plumbed though, right?
Matt Dull: It wasn't plumbed, no. [crosstalk 00:07:04] But it was basically how the room would architecturally feel once you lived in it and moved into it.
Dave Blanks: Was there like a mock-up, was there like a paper-mache toilet in this place?
Matt Dull: There was a real toilet.
Dave Blanks: A real-life toilet!
Matt Dull: Now, it's not connected.
Dave Blanks: It's not connected.
Matt Dull: But it was to give you scale and make sure when you opened these suites and the apartments, they actually have like a toilet room and a shower room in the bathroom. So, you want to make sure that, "Hey, is there enough room to actually move around in here? And where should the hooks go? And where should the towel racks go? And where should ..."
Dave Blanks: Right. So you had the test groups go in there.
Matt Dull: So yeah, we had a bunch of different groups of folks go in and walk around and look at it and try things out and make sure it just kind of fits and it feels like it should. Furniture fits, desks fit, all this kind of stuff. It all theoretically fits on paper, but what about when it actually gets built? Does it feel right?
Matt Dull: So, that happened early, early on in the project. Now, when we're building the mock-up rooms, we're really mocking up the sequence of events, when you're going in and constructing, like what needs to happen first, second, third, fourth? What does it need to look like at the end?
Matt Dull: And make sure everybody kind of has an idea, because you have a bunch of different trades going into the rooms. It's not just one person that's doing everything that's on this wall. You know, you have an electrician, you've got a plumber, you've got a mechanical person, you've got the person installing the windows, you've got people that are installing the insulation, you've got people installing the drywall. So you might have six or seven different people that are all touching this one exterior wall of the building and it all has to integrate and be done at the right time, because you don't want someone —
Dave Blanks: Yeah, the order of operations.
Matt Dull: Yeah, the order of operations has to be perfect, but before you replicate this out. So doing these mock-ups helps us get the order of operations right, make sure the materials are right, make sure that everything's installed correctly, and that everyone knows what they're doing before you replicate this hundreds of times all over.
Dave Blanks: So we did that.
Matt Dull: So, that is progress.
Dave Blanks: It's done! Oh, OK. All right.
Matt Dull: Yeah, everything's pretty much set up except for the window system and those windows start coming in this week. Once those come in, we'll focus on that room, getting that room kind of perfect.
Dave Blanks: Furniture's in though? In that mock-up room?
Matt Dull: No, no, no. No, we don't do the furniture. We know the furniture fits now, after that first kind of round of mock-ups.
Dave Blanks: You measured.
Matt Dull: Yeah, and these rooms are almost identical, I mean, they were within like a square foot or two of each other from building to building. So it's really like replicating the same thing. But we're really focused in on the most crucial thing that has to fit is that exterior wall. And how we're doing the PTAC unit or kind of our HPAC unit in each room has to be —
Dave Blanks: PTAC, what is that?
Matt Dull: It's a package thermal air conditioner.
Dave Blanks: Oh, OK.
Matt Dull: It's similar to what you would have like in a —
Dave Blanks: Like a mini-split?
Matt Dull: It's not quite like a mini-split, it's actually more like what you might see in like a hotel, right? So it's a unit that's integrated into the exterior of the wall.
Dave Blanks: Right, a PTAC.
Matt Dull: Like the PTAC, yeah. But all of that has to ... "Like a PTAC."
Dave Blanks: I didn't know.
Matt Dull: All that has to kind of integrate perfectly or you end up with gaps where air can come through or outside elements, bugs, all sorts of stuff. So everything has to be perfectly fitted in there.
Dave Blanks: It's called great stuff, OK? I use it all the time. We're going to fix this. Don't worry.
Matt Dull: That's right.
Dave Blanks: Just kidding. Now you want to get it, like, just right?
Matt Dull: Yeah, we want to get it just right. And so we're really focused on that because all of this needs to operate like a system, like a single system, even though there are five or six different groups of people that are working on it, it needs to operate like at one system.
Dave Blanks: I'm stressed about this. I'm glad somebody else is handling this, Matt. I don't think I'm up to the task. I can't do it.
Matt Dull: Yeah, me too.
Dave Blanks: So OK, in the process of testing out that room.
Matt Dull: Yep, and then once that gets kind of dialed in and once we've got all the different trades looking at it and they know what they're doing, then they'll start, probably starting as early as next week, start then replicating that as they kind of move through the building. We're doing just kind of like it with Building 300. We've worked our way up with all of the rough-ins, so your plumbing, your electrical, your mechanical.
Dave Blanks: Laurel Creek, is that what you mean there?
Matt Dull: Yeah, sorry. Like Laurel Creek, there you go.
Dave Blanks: Still calling it Building 300, huh?
Matt Dull: Old habits die hard.
Dave Blanks: Can't let go.
Matt Dull: But we worked our way up as the framing goes up and worked our way up to do the rough-ins. Now that we're atop, we're going to work our way down. And that's about, that's flipping right now. Insulation has started going in the fifth floor, in that top floor. And then this week, we're starting pre-construction meetings with our drywall folks, with the flooring folks, and we're pouring lightweight concrete down the hallways, pouring Gypcrete, which is like a lightweight concrete material, in the bathrooms and in the units, all of that starting on the fifth floor and we'll work our way down. And they'll start putting in drywall here in a couple of weeks on the top floor and then start slowly working their way down as they finish the top floor, they'll move down to the next, and to the next, and the next, just like we did it over at Laurel Creek. So, it's exciting being in October and already talking about working on finishes and starting working on drywall and flooring and tile work and doing that. And that's all starting here in the next couple of weeks.
Dave Blanks: Fantastic. That's awesome. Anything else you want to cover today on the podcast, Mr. Dull?
Matt Dull: Well, one other thing, I guess, just exterior of the building, masonry started last week. So that pre-cast stone that's going in at the kind of bottom course, bottom floor. That started as well as that first course of brick on the stair towers. That is starting right on the corner of Stadium Drive and Rivers Street. That corner of New River Hall is where all that masonry work is starting and then it will just start expanding kind of through the bottom floor, throughout the building, and then start working its way up.
Dave Blanks: I noticed a significant amount of scaffolding. So I was like, "Well, they're finished with the exterior wrap." But yeah, OK. Makes sense.
Matt Dull: Yeah, so the cranes, we had two larger construction cranes on-site. Those have left the site in the past couple of weeks because the framing's done, the roofing's done, so you don't really have that need for those large cranes. Those have left the site. We've got some really kind of smaller lifts and boom kind of cranes that have been doing the Tyvek wrapping on the outside of the building. Those are about to be done with their work and now we've got all the scaffolding coming up and that's for that exterior masonry work that started last week.
Dave Blanks: I'm just glad that we made it through this podcast without saying, "We're wrapping up wrapping the building." Or, "Yes the insulation installation is going well."
Matt Dull: Well, now you've done it.
Dave Blanks: Oh, no! Backfired on me.
Dave Blanks: Matt, thanks for your time. I appreciate it. We'll do it again.
Matt Dull: Absolutely. Thanks for letting us share some more updates.
Dave Blanks: Yay!
Matt Dull: Nice! OK.
Dave Blanks: All right.