Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Reporter
July 13, 2012
Students are seeing more construction at UAF than sunny days this summer. The construction, which began in early May, involves over fifteen projects from Barlett Hall’s elevator upgrades to the new Sustainable Village, the 90-year-old campus is getting an upgrade.
Most construction projects began in mid-May and will continue until late August and should generally finish up before classes start in the fall. Projects such as the Atkinson Heat and Power Plant renewal are ongoing. There are twenty construction and maintenance companies working on campus this summer. All of the companies are Alaskan-based, with the majority located in Fairbanks. The amount spent on construction projects this summer is approximately 16 million dollars. The majority of the funding comes from operating budgets, appropriations and bonds. However, some projects like the McIntosh Hall kitchen upgrades are paid for by department funds, like Residence Life.
The biggest project on campus is the repairs to the Atkinson Heat and Power Plant. There are four phases for the project. During phase 1, power for some buildings, like the West Ridge Research building, will be run through the new switchgear room. The switchgear room generates electrical power on campus. The new switchgear will have 13,000 voltage capacity. The current switchgear, located in the heat and power plant, has only 4,000 volts. This switchgear will still power most of the buildings on campus, and it will be few more years until the new switchgear room powers campus by itself.
“It’s passed it’s useful life and there’s some dangerous things for the workers, and it’s not very reliable,” said Mike Rhuckaus, the Project Manager. The current voltage system was built in the 1960’s.
Due to the main switchgear’s old age the breakers in the voltage system are prone to explosions and arc flash events, according to Ruckhaus. Although this has not happened at the power plant on campus, the risk of it occurring becomes more likely as the plant ages. The second phase will involve replacing the cables and transformers around campus.
Another big project on campus is repairs to the Utilities Main Waste Line. This project replaces the current sewer line in the center of campus. The line connects from Lola Tilly Commons to South Chandalar Drive toward the Ernest Gruening building and the Wood Center.
Several adjustments to the plans have been made to cause the least amount of impact from the construction on campus, especially around the Wood Center.
“Several adjustments to the placement of the sewer lines and manholes have resulted in a better product and less impact to the face of campus,” said Mike Schuetz, the Project Manager, in an email. A manhole is a ground opening to an underground utility room, in this case, the sewage vaults. Manholes are used to connect utilities and provide access to the sewage lines on campus for maintenance and repair. Adjusting the placement of the manholes helped save trees located near Eielson, Signers, Wickersham and the Wood Center, according to Schuetz.
“There are places in the sewer where the pipe has rotted away and there’s nothing but a little hole through the soil and those collapse and fail,” said Ruckhaus. If the sewer system fails, then campus will shut down. In 2010, the sewer system in the Sydney Chapman building failed which required an emergency repair.
On the west side of campus, there has been construction Patty Center Ice Area roof. The new asphalt roof for the ice area will replace the current asphalt roof. The current roof is a couple decades old and prone to leakage. “The roof was on the verge of failure,” Reed Morisky, the Project Manager, said in an email. An asphalt roof has multiple layers of asphalt covered fiberglass. The surface of the roof system, called a capping sheet, has a ceramic coated granule finish. This type of capping sheet protects the asphalt layers beneath it. The project began in May and is scheduled to finish in July.
Future projects for the UAF campus include new residence halls and a dining facility. The dining facility will replace the existing Lola Tilly Commons and will be an addition to the Wood Center. The new dining area would include a coffee shop, dining area and remodeled student services offices. Construction for the project is scheduled to begin March 2013 and the facility will open in August 2014.
The new residence halls will be built along Cooper Lane, spanning from the area across the street from the Moore-Bartlett-Skarland complex to the new dining facility. The three halls would included 100 beds each with suite-style rooms. Construction is set to begin in 2014 and open to students for the 2015-2016 academic year.