This story was originally published in the Oct.28 issue of Fourth Estate.
Construction on Taylor Hall, a new freshman honors residence hall has been halted for design and construction issues.
Construction on the project began in April 2013 and was set to be finished by the beginning of fall semester.
According to Nancy Pickens, the senior project manager for Taylor Hall, the residence hall is still under construction. Construction work on the north side of the building has just been completed and work on the south side is expected to be finished shortly. Exterior work is also nearly complete and interior finishes are expected to begin soon. All mechanical systems are in place and ready for testing, while permanent electrical power is also installed.
Construction setbacks for the project were mentioned in the May 2014 Board of Visitors meeting, according to the minutes.
“House VIII Phase B—Shenandoah [Taylor Hall] was changed to a yellow score because of design issues, but it will be completed by August,” according to the Board of Visitors minutes.
Capital construction projects receive “stoplight” ratings based on their level of completion. A “yellow” rating, which Taylor Hall received at the May BOV meeting, means a project, “may not make original program intent, but can still recover.”
Though Facilities did not specifically comment on the design issues that have halted construction, Pickens said that these issues impacted construction over the summer and into the fall semester, though many of them have been resolved.
The residence hall was supposed to accommodate 295 honors freshman and their RAs. The students said the Honors Living Learning Community was relocated to three residence halls, Dickenson, Essex and Carroll, in the Commons.
Honors students were told they would not be living in Taylor Hall a week before the start of their orientation in late June.
According to freshman honors college student, Tony Nguyen, having the opportunity to live in Taylor Hall was one of the reasons why he applied.
“I felt frustrated since Taylor Hall was a huge reason why I applied. I bet everyone felt disappointed or angry at this inconvenience. It felt like they knew that Taylor Hal was not going to be completed months before we even decided to choose to go to Mason and they waited last minute to tell us once we already paid for most of the tuition,” said freshman honors student, Tony Nguyen.
Matthew Eiman, another honors freshman, said he was not too disappointed in this change.
“I know across the board, freshman housing is not the best living situation in the first place, so I never thought Taylor Hall was going to live up to all the hype,” Eiman said.
However, at the most recent BOV meeting in October, it was reported in the Capital Projects spotlight that the project schedule for Taylor Hall was delayed for “significant design revisions” to achieve life, fire and safety building code compliance. The project also had to review comments from the Bureau of Capital Outlay Management, which enforce Virginia building codes.
According to Pickens, the issues that were discussed in the most recent BOV meeting were the same issues that delayed construction in May.
It was also reported at the meeting that the contractor had provided notification of “significant cost impacts as a result of these design revisions and delays.” Despite these design changes and construction setbacks, Pickens says the authorized budget for the project of $18,805,862 will not change.
Statistics to the BOV about the status of the project give the unfinished residence hall a “yellow” stoplight, which means the project is at risk to exceed their approved budget. The schedule for the project received a “red” stoplight, meaning the project is likely to exceed it’s approved schedule.
Despite changes to his living accommodations, Eiman enjoys being close to other buildings on campus.
“Now that I’m on campus and understand the different communities of the campus, I feel as though I would have had a better chance to connect with freshman at Taylor Hall because it is located in Presidents Park. However, Presidents Park is quite removed from the campus, so it is nice to have proximity to the center of campus,” Eiman said.
The project statistics also state that construction is 90% complete and expected to be ready for occupancy by Dec. 6.
The update on the project concluded by stating the university was working with the design-build contractor and the BCOM to finalize the design and complete the project for use in the spring semester.
Pickens says the university hopes to have the residence hall completed by the spring.
“The Design Build Team and the University are doing everything within their powers to complete the building in time for Spring 2015 semester occupancy,” Pickens said.
Featured photo credit: Amy Rose