When thinking about the uncertainties of completing construction projects according to strict deadlines, the old adage “it is better to be safe than sorry” comes to mind.
This becomes particularly appropriate when considering St. John’s recent track record with finishing on-campus construction projects on time.
This past summer, the townhouse project was completed on time for move-in day at the start of the Fall 2008 semester as planned by the University. Unfortunately, many students were dismayed to find dirty floors, damaged windows, or leaking heating units in their townhouse apartments.
Whether or not this was the result of a rush to finish the construction on time, these problems could have been discovered and remedied by the construction company or University staff if they had had the luxury of time.
This was not possible since students had already been registered to live in the townhouses and were scheduled to move in only days after the construction was supposed to be complete.
Now, with the nearing completion of the new University Center/Academic Center, the University is proposing to move many student organizations into the new building over the summer in time for the start of the 2009 Fall semester. But is such a move-in schedule for student activities really the best plan of action?
The most important fact to consider when looking at the UC/AC is that it is not in the same situation as the townhouses. Students have not signed up to move into the UC/AC, nor are classes already scheduled to take place in the new classrooms that are going to be located there. Unlike the townhouses, the UC/AC does have the luxury of time.
For the students’ welfare, the building should be finalized upon opening day in every aspect, avoiding a rush completion at all costs. Anything less would be a great disservice to the student body.
In the construction of any building, there are many variables to consider. However, in a multipurpose facility like the UC/AC, the number of variables are multiplied significantly. This makes foreseeing any potential problems much more difficult.
Why risk the disappointment and frustration of a delay caused by technical problems when there is no pressing urgency to have it ready in the fall?
Take the example of the library renovation that took place this past Fall semester. Like the townhouses, the library was meant to be completed in time for the start of classes. However, an unexpected plumbing incident occurred, delaying the reopening of much of the library for over two months.
If a major problem like that were to happen in the new UC/AC after the majority of student activities were moved into the new building, the University would have to then turn around and move everyone back into the old University Center. This would be a major pain for students, organizations, and administrators alike.
Now consider what would happen if the offices located in the UC had already been reallocated for other purposes. If an academic department had moved into the UC or if the building was in the process of being torn down to be replaced by a parking lot, a simple construction error would be transformed into an administrative disaster. A blunder like this would paralyze student organizations on campus because they would no longer have a place to meet.
In the case of the new UC/AC, pushing back the date of the grand opening would, as a worst case scenario, be erring on the side of caution, whereas the consequences of a rushed completion date could be dangerous, at the very least.