Construction to install air conditioning in Gregory College House — the last dorm without AC — is expected to complete by May 2021.
Although Penn had planned to begin the project in May 2020 for completion by the end of the summer, Facilities and Real Estate Services Director of Design and Construction Mariette Buchman said the COVID-19 pandemic and limited supply of equipment upended their project timeline. Installation of underground piping infrastructure and roofing work began in June and finished in August, while interior work including windows and fan coil installation recently began at the start of this month.
Although Penn will reopen most on-campus dorms for the spring semester, Gregory will remain closed in order to complete the installation of AC, Director of Residential Services Pat Killilee wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Students who were originally assigned to live in Gregory before Penn reversed its decision for the fall semester and closed on-campus housing have received a new assignment for the spring semester.
The University’s Board of Trustees voted in November 2019 to install AC in Gregory by August 2020. Many students who have lived in Gregory during the summer months described uncomfortable heat, with temperatures in rooms reaching 90 degrees. Gregory had previously made an effort to combat the heat by distributing fans to residents, but residents said the initiative failed because the fans just blew hot air.
Construction for New College House West is on track to finish by May 2021, with the $163 million dorm set to open for student occupancy in August 2021, Michael Dausch, FRES executive director of design and construction, said. Dave Dunn, FRES senior project manager of design and construction management, said 80% of the construction, including most exterior work and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work, is complete.
In order to finish the interior construction by the end of spring 2021, 200 people work at the construction site every day, he said.
Although Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordered many structural projects to shut down on March 19, construction of NCHW, which sits at the corner of 40th and Walnut streets, was approved later that month to stabilize and weather-proof the site. Dunn added that because the construction was operating ahead of schedule prior to the pandemic, the August 2021 opening did not have to be postponed.
“The project was ahead of the curve before COVID hit, so we were in the best position we could have been in,” Dunn said.
Exterior construction of the building continued through April, and the remainder of construction, which paused in mid-March, restarted on May 1 with COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
The University released its plans to build the new college house in November 2017, and construction began in December 2018. Once completed, the 13-story building will house 450 sophomores, juniors, and seniors beginning in August 2021, and will open in conjunction with Penn's new housing policy requiring sophomores to live on campus.
NCHW will consist of suites ranging from two-bedroom to six-bedroom layouts with a fridge, microwave, and sinks. Suites will not have stove tops, but students can use the kitchens in eight club rooms located throughout the College House. The building will also feature a closed-in courtyard as well as a "Campus Green" open to the public. NCHW will also consist of a fitness room, meditation room, two music practice rooms, an outdoor walkway above the dining porch, two seminar rooms, one common living room, and seven study rooms.