When walking around campus, students are constantly surrounded by construction. There are so many plans that are currently going on, even without in-person classes. One of the hopes of both students and construction employees is that some of these tasks can be completed before students are allowed back on campus.
Dave Irvin, associate vice chancellor of Facilities Services at UT, said that since construction is considered essential, as laid out by Gov. Bill Lee, his department is currently trying to figure out how to best carry out the plans while still being mindful of campus and the employees working on these projects. There is a desire to continue construction, especially those projects that were started mid-year and have such tight schedules, and get as much done before students and faculty return.
Irvin added that the department has been carefully monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Before any project could continue, we required each contractor to submit a COVID-19 plan, detailing how they would undertake their projects while providing needed protection. Once those were submitted and reviewed, and we were comfortable safety protocols would be in place, construction companies were allowed to continue,” Irvin said.
Some of the projects that have been continuing are the construction of the new Engineering Building and West Dining Facility.
Smaller projects will be on hold until around May 4. Other projects, such as any renovations to classrooms, are prioritized and most likely will be done before the start of the fall semester, so that they can be complete when students hopefully return to campus. Overall, Facilities Services is taking the health of the construction employees into consideration as well as maintaining campus as best as they can.
The new Engineering Building is currently “the largest academic building under construction at the university,” according to UT’s Facilities Services. Once completed, it will be the home to the sixth-ranked nuclear engineering department among public universities in the nation. The new Engineering Building will also allow the Tickle College of Engineering to expand and take care of their needs due to the college doubling its enrollment over the past ten years.
The new West Dining Facility is a part of the West Campus Redevelopment Project and will be located where the residential Humes Hall once stood. It will house a new Fresh Food Company, such as the one in Stokely Hall, and a full-service Chick-fil-A. In recent years, new residence halls — including Dogwood, Magnolia, Orange and the now defunct White — have been built on the west side of campus as well. Dogwood and Magnolia showcase the collegiate gothic style that the university wants to explore within their new and ongoing projects around campus.
Most recently, another ongoing project is the expansion of Pedestrian Walkway, which is set to extend to the corner of Andy Holt Avenue and Pat Head Summit Street.
Construction is expected to be complete before students come back on campus, but it will start with prioritizing the projects and taking the employees’ health into consideration.