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Mild winter keeps building construction on schedule

Barry McNamara
02/03/2012
This construction site photo was taken Feb. 2. For those who haven't been to campus for a while, the other buildings in the photo are the Huff Athletic Center (foreground) and Bowers Hall.
According to Roger Hess, director of construction services for Monmouth College’s $40 million Center for Science and Business, the last few weeks have been anything but a “winter of our discontent.”

The abnormally warm weather, Hess said, has kept the massive project right on schedule.

“We’ve always planned on working through the winter,” said Hess. “But when it’s really cold, the guys are cold, it’s harder for them to do some of the work in gloves and productivity is down. And what really stops you is rain. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen such a mild winter. It’s really helped us stay on schedule.”

That schedule includes a spring 2013 completion, which Hess pointed out is just a year away. In the short term, Hess said a few construction milestones have already been reached or will be soon.

“Our goal has been to set 40 or 50 structural steel beams a day, and we’ve able to do that, so we’re all done with the structural framing. That ‘whopping crane’ that’s been there since after Thanksgiving will disappear in the next week. Our ironworkers will be here for a couple more weeks.”

Concrete pours have begun, and Hess said that once the decks are poured, a fire proofing spray can be applied to the steel. That process, he explained, is why the building’s steel does not appear shiny and new.

“The spray-on fire-proofing is a water-based type product, and it won’t stick to painted steel,” he said. “So we use the raw carbon steel, which is why it comes out a little rusty looking.”

The concrete pours should be finished by the middle of March, with fire proofing taking a couple weeks longer.

In addition to the color of the steel, Hess explained two other facets of the construction that have raised the curiosity of onlookers. One is “the big, white tarps” that billow in the breeze. “We have those to keep the temperature inside the building above freezing. We have some large heaters in there also, and it’s gotten as warm as 75 degrees inside. We have guys working in their shirt sleeves.”

Hess also commented on a large doorway, headed to nowhere, on the northeast corner of the site. It’s not an entryway into another dimension but, rather, “an exterior wall mock-up, which helps us with quality control. We’ll be putting a window inside there soon, and you’ll be able to see how it all comes together.”

To mark the installation of the final pieces of steel into the building, Hess said a “signing party” will be held later this month.

“Faculty, staff, students, even prospective students will be invited,” he said. “They’ll be able to sign the steel with a magic marker to show they were there,” making the event similar to burying a time capsule. “We’ll have details soon about when that will be.”

If the weather keeps cooperating, expect that event sooner than later.