New USU construction delayed for second time

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The completion of the new hub building of the University Student Union will be delayed for a second time – this time for three months – following continuing rain delays and complex design and construction factors, USU officials announced last week.

The three-story building that will hold a new Freudian Sip coffee shop, television lounge, a 70-machine computer lab, Matador Involvement Center, meeting and study rooms, and an alumni reading room, will open around March 16, 2006.

According to Debra Hammond, USU executive director, the hub building was initially set to be completed Nov. 23, but the date was previously postponed because of severe weather.

An attempt to complete the construction by Dec. 23 failed, partly due to a recent record Southern California rainfall that caused a second delay.

“(It) probably was the second wettest rain season in California,” Hammond said.

Construction for the hub building by the Ford E.C. company and several subcontractors first started in November 2004.

Jason Wang, associate director for operations and services in the USU, said he was optimistic that the renegotiation of the project would be complete.

“Unfortunately, the rains persisted,” Wang said. “If the rains had not persisted, the schedule would’ve been doable, and I think that it was an earnest attempt for our contractor and the university to try to get the project done as soon as possible.”

Wang said that when the building was originally designed, it was intended to be stylistic, and look different to passersby.

“Not the proverbial stucco box,” Wang said regarding the design. “The designs that were provided were solid, constructible.”

Wang said several questions arose on whether the building was going to hold. A question that came up was if rain occurred, would the excess water cause leaking problems as well as structural issues that may not have been addressed to the fullest extent.

A request by the university was made to stop construction and to look at the building to make sure it is safe, Wang said.

“As opposed to just going ahead making our best guess and constructing it as designed, we felt that it was best as a construction team to stop work and take a look at the individual details, particularly when two different surfaces come together,” he said. “Instead of making a bad choice to just go ahead and just build it as the plans indicate, let’s make sure we are building a building that is going to last, and we’re not going to have problems down the road.”

Some materials that were purchased for the construction of the building were not the best solution to the problem, Wang said.

“Some of the minor pieces, the steel studs that support the exterior skin, were made according to design, but it was difficult to use them so it made more sense to get a redesigned clip for readjustments,” he said.

Hammond said the USU has a good working relationship with construction company and contractors. She said she believes that the lines of communication between the two entities are solid.

“All areas of concern regarding constructability are communicated clearly in efforts to find the fastest and safest resolution,” said Hakim Chambers, facilities project and services manager at the USU.

Hammond said the construction company is as disappointed as USU officials with the delay of the hub building.

With the delays that have occurred, Hammond said she is disappointed that the hub building could not be open for students, but ultimately feels that the facility will be worth the wait because of all its different amenities.

“(The) student union is one of the buildings that should stand out,” Hammond said. “It should look different.”

Wang said that even though there were delays, construction never stopped.

“We’re at the point where the roof should be done during the Thanksgiving timeframe,” Wang said. “Construction has certainly continued, although the critical path of getting certain things done in a timeframe that allow the project to continue to move forward more aggressively, those were the pieces that were held up. Now I think we’re through the worst of that. We should really be making positive strides toward completing this project since the rain has been taken out of the equation.”

Wang said he feels that with the new hub building will augment what USU officials are trying to do in terms of future plans, programs and services.

“There a lot of pieces in our area that are critical to what were trying to do in the student union,” he said. “We have made some very conscious choices to link finishes that we are doing in the new building on the old building.”

Wang said the new hub building will be an exciting place, but that it is important to link the building to the other services that officials feel are critical to what they are doing with the student union.

Wang said now is the time for the USU to be on that next level in terms of services and opportunities for students with the new hub building.

“It’s going to finally be that student union that I think our campus deserves,” he said.

John Barundia can be reached at jcb4412@csun.edu.