District House residents deal with post-construction glitches

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Maintenance workers added rubber strips to the edges of the showers in District House to keep water from flooding.

Some students who moved into GW’s newest residence hall were greeted with less-than-pleasant living conditions, residents said.

New residents of the $130 million residence hall said they have had issues controlling the temperature in their rooms, water from showers flooded their bathrooms and the building’s promised restaurants have not yet opened. Although students said they were frustrated by these dilemmas, officials and experts say problems are typical when a new building opens.

Within the first few nights in the residence hall, students said they suffered from “permanent heat mode” on their thermostats and are unable to change the temperature in their own rooms.

“It’s actually unbearable at times, I can’t stay asleep because I’m sweating in my bed,” Emily Rosen, a sophomore who lives on the building’s eleventh floor, said.

The University responded to temperature complaints in an email to residents last week, which said that although thermostats read “heat mode,” the air circulating through the vents was cool. Another email that day said workers were addressing air conditioning outages in the building.

Residents also said their rooms were flooded because the showers didn’t have edges to keep water from spilling out.

Kelly Del Percio, a sophomore and District House resident, said she experienced “frustrating” amounts of flooding in her bathroom.

“It wasn’t going into the drain because it’s even-level, so gravity’s not really taking effect here,” Del Percio said.

Del Percio said she didn’t contact the housing office because she received an email from the University addressing the issue before she could. Maintenance workers began adding rubber lips to the edges of the showers starting Aug. 25, according to an email sent to students.

University spokesman Brett Zongker said most drain issues were solved by installing shower dam strips. FixIt responders have been responding to complaints about rooms’ temperatures, he said.

“The Division of Operations and Clark Construction are making great progress regarding this, and student response has been very positive on both this and the new building as a whole,” Zongker said.

He added that District House, like any new building, requires fine-tuning during its first few months.

Residence Hall Association President Ali Belinkie said the issues in District House are problems that come with any new building.

“There’s no way to work out all the kinks until someone lives in it,” Belinkie said. “The RAs and early move-in students were the first to actually work out the building.”

The even flooring in the building’s showers, which caused the flooding, was intentionally designed that way in to make the rooms handicap-accessible, Belinkie added.

“They opened them up to the rest of the bathroom and then realized pretty quickly that the water was pouring out, not draining properly,” she said.

Barmak Nassirian, the director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said initial issues are to be expected in new buildings on college campuses because no one has lived in them until students move in.

“Minor cosmetic inconveniences, that goes with any new construction project I’ve heard of,” Nassirian said.

District House is the University’s most expensive residential building project to date, and officials have said that after its completion, the expansive budget for large building projects is likely to shrink.

Marc Robillard, the executive director of auxiliary service at Boston University who served as the housing director for 25 years, said officials should meet students’ expectations when completing a highly anticipated project like District House.

“With design people and contractors, you expect quality and to get it done the way you want it done,” Robillard said.

Robillard added that constructing a building can be “more of an art” because there is no set way to construct every new building.

“We don’t have a definite formula that we can pass along at our conferences and me say to the person at George Washington like ‘here you go, this is how you build a building,’” he said.

Elise Zaidi contributed to reporting.

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