Campus Construction Update: Week of April 23, 2007

Mortar, boards: Bricklayers at work on the new student housing. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Mortar, boards: Bricklayers at work on the new student housing. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

A publication note: For the next month to six weeks, Campus Construction Update will appear every other week instead of weekly. We’ll publish more often when warranted by breaking news or important announcements. And we’ll be back for sure the week of May 7 with interior views of the new Commons.

And so to the business at hand.

New student housing: The new residence adjacent to Mount David began to look more distinctly like Bates on April 19, as workers began laying the building’s brick veneer. With two crews on the job, the bricklaying is moving fast, said project manager Pam Wichroski.

Bricklayers started on the south walls and the inboard walls of the building’s two wings, which are connected by skyways to a smaller center core. When this phase is done, in early May, yellow-green insulation will be sprayed on the remaining walls — the ones that face outward and the ones that face north, toward Libbey Forum — the scaffolds will rise again and the bricklayers will reappear.

In other exterior news, two tractor trailers brought virtually all the remaining windows early this week, those being the glass walls for the skyways, aka “bridges,” and for the student living rooms that are so prominent on the wings.

In terms of the building’s interaction with its surroundings, look for a whole new energy to come from the glass expanses that will replace dull plastic sheeting that’s been billowing in the breeze for weeks.


The long arm of the concrete pumper. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Inside the center section, drywalling is in progress in the kitchen, residence coordinator’s apartment, third-floor accommodations and basement. A staircase in the center was finished this week.

And inside the wings, aka “flankers,” drywall is nearly done on the third level and walls are being painted on the first and second. The color scheme, Wichroski explained, will feature diverse shades of terra-cotta and of green.

Color names include “Pennies from Heaven” and “Marmalade,” both in the terra-cotta family; greens called “Bali” and “Sioux Falls”; and a calm orange called “Soft Marigold” that will decorate study nooks. The nooks are next to windows, so the sun should evoke a splendid glow from the paint.

Putting a different spin on “green,” Wichroski pointed out that the paints and other decorative materials selected for the housing are rated low in volatile organic compounds, aka VOCs. In other words, they won’t give off those noxious gases that smell bad and sometimes make people sick.

The new Commons fireplace lounge, at left of photo, and main entrance. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The new Commons fireplace lounge, at left of photo, and main entrance. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

New dining Commons: We asked Paul Farnsworth, project manager for the new Commons, what he means when he says that a certain part of the construction is on the “critical path.”

In planning major construction projects, he explained, a schedule of all critical tasks is created and then computer software — Primavera, in Bates’ case — helps create the best sequence of tasks to finish the project most efficiently. This sequence is the “critical path,” and these are the jobs the contractor concentrates on.

Other work that’s off the path takes place more or less simultaneously, but these less-urgent tasks are performed in “float time” — they can drift earlier or later to give precedence to the critical path.

So, Farnsworth said, “the critical path by definition is the sequence of events with zero float, and represents the shortest period of time to get the project done.”

This management concept appeared in the corporate world in the 1950s — 50 years ago this year, according to one expert — and evolved in step with the growing sophistication of computers. It’s known by a variety of names, such as Critical Path Method, Precedence methodology, the U.S. military’s PERT, etc.

“NASA really brought it to the forefront” during the Apollo moon landing program of the 1960s, Farnsworth said. Bates has used Primavera on smaller projects, he added, but the current projects are the College’s first that are long-term enough to fully exploit the software’s capabilities.

Not a "critical path" but an important one through Andrews Road upheaval. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Not a “critical path” but an important one through Andrews Road upheaval. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

And so back to our critical path.

With a long yellow mechanical hose arm reaching in like something from science fiction, a concrete pumper has been hard at it in Commons. Pouring of the second-level floor slab was finished April 24, and the first-story slab at the north end of the building will be done May 1. The remaining first-floor slab should be oozed into place by the end of May.

Black granite for the lowest course of the outer wall is on site. It will be laid on what’s called a “brick shelf,” a kind of step formed when the foundation wall was poured. That work will start on the south side.

Finally, application of the second layer of the roofing — white panels that provide a level surface atop the corrugated steel roof decking — has begun on the west.

Alumni Walk: Fences, holes and heavy equipment are what you’ll find nowadays on the former Andrews Road, the construction site for the cross-campus connector.

It’s an “exciting place,” Farnsworth said dryly. “It’s a difficult site given the history of what’s under the ground. Pettengill is where the old maintenance center was, which everything eventually connected to, so there’s a lot of abandoned utilities underground. But we knew they were all there.”

A lot of abandoned utilities being joined by a lot of new ones. Back toward the new Commons, steam lines will link the steam vaults planted earlier in the spring. It’s hoped that the Big Dig in front of Pettengill, described previously in this space, will begin next week, Farnsworth added.

The site of the future amphitheater. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The site of the future amphitheater. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The most eye-catching aspect of Alumni Walk work at this point (in part because it’s happening above ground) is between Lane and Pettengill halls, where the existing slope is being reshaped for a small amphitheater facing Lake Andrews. An existing retaining wall next to Lane needed less work than expected, which meant less noisy piledriving, although the concrete-breaking did have a certain music of its own.

The current plan is to pour a wall parallel to the end of Pettengill, then a second one parallel to the end of Lane. The amphitheater’s stepped seats will be built of earth, grass and concrete between those walls.

Can We Talk? What do you think about the campus improvements process? What would you like to know about it? What do you know that we don’t? We want to hear from you. Please e-mail your questions and comments to Doug Hubley, with “Construction Update” in the subject line.

Our Back Pages: See an index of earlier Campus Construction Updates here.

Photo Opps: See panoramic views taken March 13 of campus improvement projects. Click the links for the Commons itself, Commons in a southern view, in a northern view and the new student housing

And for a bird’s-eye view of the locations for the new student housing and dining Commons, plug these coordinates into Google Earth or Google Maps (for the latter, click “Satellite” or “Hybrid”):

New Student Housing: 44 06 25.65 N, 70 12 23.67 W

New Dining Commons: 44 06 19.83 N, 70 12 06.93 W



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