Campus Construction Update: Hedge-Roger Williams renovations, week of June 7

At Hedge Hall these days, what’s up is down — in the basement. And you’ll get a lift out of it.

As we described last time, workers have undermined a load-bearing concrete wall in the process of making an elevator pit. So what’s holding up the building? For the time being, explains project manager Paul Farnsworth, an assemblage of steel beams and wooden posts is doing that job. The beams, threaded horizontally through the wall, are in turn resting on vertical posts.

Meanwhile, the pit is being dug. An elevator pit provides a base for the lift, including the hydraulic piston that moves it up and down. Five or six feet deep, this hole will be lined with concrete, probably next week, and more concrete will provide a footing for that load-bearing wall. “They want the base of the wall to be an integral part of the pit,” Farnsworth explains. Later a shaft will be drilled down dozens of feet for the piston.

Nearby, new plumbing and other utility conduits are being laid prior to the floor slab being poured. The footers for the building’s steel skeleton are finished, Farnsworth adds.

Also at Hedge, workers have started peeling off the roof cladding. And they’ve undertaken a task that honors the vision of the building’s first architect, George M. Coombs. They’re restoring first-floor window openings to their original height — removing bricks, installed somewhere along the way, that have blocked the upper third of the openings.

In case you, like Campus Construction Update, have been hanging around the green construction fence near Roger Bill awaiting the start of excavation around the foundation, which we promised the other week, Farnsworth admitted to a mixup in dates. That work won’t begin for several weeks.

But maybe you have forgotten all about the foundation work because you are distracted by the growing hole in the ground at the east side of the Bill.

This hole started life as a declivity allowing construction machinery to get into the basement (don’t you wish you had something like that at your house?). But it’s being embiggened in preparation for a dramatic step we’ve already seen at Hedge: the removal of a swath of wall, from ground level up to the roof, where an addition will be built. Knocking out the wall should start in a couple of weeks.

Cosmetically, the Bill exterior is in a paradoxical phase. On the one hand, with the interior largely gutted and black holes where the windows used to be, the Bill, like Hedge, is a ghostly shell.

On the other, as the brickwork is being cleaned and repointed, that shell is getting prettier all the time. Check out the corner nearest New Commons next time you stroll by. “It really brings out” the visual appeal of the bricks, Farnsworth says. “I like it. It’s an indication that this is going to be a new building.”

Notes from Underground: Checked off the to-do list are the relocation of a gas line between Hedge and Ladd Library and the replacement of a clay sewer pipe between Hedge and Alumni Walk.

In that same area, a steam line was taken out during the first week of June, which necessitated asbestos-abatement measures including the erection of a plastic enclosure.

During the week of June 14, another steam pipe will be replaced, this time between Hedge and the library. Farnsworth explained that the actual pipe lives within a concrete tunnel, and will be exposed, withdrawn and cut off a section at a time. That work will be done from the Ladd end.

Finally in the subterranean realm, the new water supply to Roger Williams Hall is nearly finished. The sewer hookup takes place next week.

Can we talk? Campus Construction Update welcomes your questions and comments, unless they’re mean, about campus improvements. Please e-mail staff writer Doug Hubley at this E-mail, stating “Construction Update” in the subject line.

Read about progress in the Garcelon Field renovation.

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