Public health school construction delayed

Classes in the new School of Public Health and Health Service building will begin a semester later than expected after construction hit several snags.

Faculty will be unable to move into their offices in the $75 million building, which sits near Washington Circle, until next year’s spring break. Classrooms will open for summer 2014 – rather than next spring, as originally planned – due to permit delays, Senior Associate Vice President of Operations Alicia Knight said last week.

“Every project, we experience a variety of challenges – would be my best word fr it,” Knight said. “You expect that not everything in a construction plan that’s three years long is going to go exactly as you planned.”

After hitting permit delays, which Knight called a “not predictable process,” concrete work further slowed down the building’s completion. Construction on Gelman Library was also delayed last August because the permit process required multiple revisions.

The seven-floor building reached its highest point earlier this month, and construction workers will now transition efforts to the exterior, building walls and the roof. The structure spans 115,000 square feet.

Payette Architects, a Boston-based firm, is leading the construction. The building is being funded by a mix of debt reserves, capital reserves and fundraising dollars.

Knight added that public health school dean Lynn Goldman, who runs one of the University’s newest and most research-heavy colleges, has worked with faculty members to ensure the eventual move will be smooth.

Douglas Evans, a professor of global health and of prevention and community health, called these delays “typical” for big construction projects.

“We’re not happy about the delay, but I certainly wouldn’t blame our administration,” Evans said.

The building will centralize the school’s seven departments. Classes are now held in Ross Hall and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences building, with most offices housed in leased buildings on K Street.

It will include upgraded research labs for the school’s work studying topics like AIDS, obesity and food and water safety.

“Right now we’re kind of scattered about the campus,” Evans said. “With the new building we’ll be able to more easily interact in a central place.”

Brianna Gurciullo contributed to this report.

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