Despite delays in construction of various campus buildings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New College House West will open on schedule in fall 2021. Other construction projects' timelines such as those of Weitzman Plaza and Gregory College House have been pushed back.
Penn delayed $50 million worth of construction during a seven-week period following the coronavirus outbreak in March. Exterior construction of NCHW — which included weatherization work, roofing, and the installation of windows — and $46 million student entrepreneurial hub Tangen Hall continued in April, while the remainder of construction was shutdown until May 1 with safety restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Facilities and Real Estate Services Executive Director of Design and Construction Mike Dausch said.
Tangen Hall is scheduled to finish by November 2020 and is considered "top-of-mind" priority, as well as the Wharton Academic and Research Building which will be completed by October 2020 and be in use by spring 2021, according to Penn Today. Installation of air conditioning in Gregory College House, however, has been delayed by one year, while the Weitzman Plaza will experience a seven-week delay.
Construction on the $4.4 million Weitzman Plaza was slated to begin in May 2020. Weitzman Plaza will be a series of benches and spaces for students to socialize and will be installed on the steps from Meyerson Hall down to 34th Street.
Gregory College House, the only residential dorm to not have air conditioning, was set to have an HVAC heating and air conditioning system installed by August 2020. Dausch said because many manufacturing plants shut down in March, FRES was not able to receive all of the air conditioning equipment in time to complete HVAC installation by the end of the summer and will delay construction by one year.
“We are working with Business Services to find out when the project could start again, as soon as they're able to free up the building," he said.
The installation of a new HVAC system in Gregory will be complete by the start of the fall 2021 semester, according to FRES Assistant Director of Communications Heidi T. Wunder.
The record-breaking $163 million residential building will house sophomores, juniors, and seniors as part of Penn President Amy Gutmann’s "Second Year Experience Program" requiring all undergraduate sophomore students to live on campus in college houses starting with the Class of 2024 students.
“What they're doing now are our interior finishes, primarily, and that project is scheduled to be completed so that it can be occupied for the next academic year," Dausch said.
Interior work for the Pavilion at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, a 17-story, 1.5 million square foot extension of HUP, was halted in March to open 120 beds for COVID-19 patients. Contrary to expectations, HUP, as of May, has not needed to use the extra space in the Pavilion for any COVID-19 patients. Construction of the HUP Pavilion’s interior has since resumed, but the space can quickly be ready for COVID-19 patients if needed again, University architect Mark Kocent told Penn Today.
Dausch remains hopeful that FRES can offset some of the construction delays with fewer students in on-campus buildings this fall which would have complicated construction plans.
“Now that the undergraduate classes are online, for several of our projects, we're able to continue the exterior work that we normally would have stopped and picked up the following summer," he said.
Dausch added the construction delays have not resulted in significant additional expenses for the University.
“There was a shift in the spending, so when construction was shut down in April, for example, the work that would not have been done in April was done in May," he said. "It really didn't cost extra money."
Workers must wear masks, submit to temperature checks, and maintain a safe social distance while on the job, according to Penn Today. Start and stop times have been staggered to prevent crowding, and workers have limited access to small interior areas.
Dausch said that a potential outbreak among workers this fall and the resulting quarantines could delay progress even further.
“[Wearing a mask] can be a challenging thing when you're doing physical labor out in high temperatures,” Dausch said. “The biggest challenge is just keeping all the workers safe,” Dausch said.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that construction on New College House West and Tangen Hall was continued in May, while in fact it was continued in April. The DP regrets this error.
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