Construction continues undeterred on campus
For the students still staying in the south colleges, one noise rises above the rest: the sounds of construction on the new Sid Richardson College building. Although most major buildings on campus have been closed, all construction projects on campus have continued due to their continued classification as “essential” under Houston’s stay-at-home order.
According to Kathy Jones, associate vice president for Facilities Engineering and Planning, no projects have been halted as a result of COVID-19.
“Our job is to deliver projects for Rice University in the most cost effective and safe manner,” Jones said. “FE&P does not have the authority to stop the work.”
When asked which authoritative body could stop construction work, Jones responded: “If the city or county government decrees construction sites should be shut down due to the COVID pandemic, we’ll certainly abide by that mandate.”
Jones said that five contractors continue to work on campus to build the new Sid Richardson College, the inflatable dome, which is formally known as the Waltrip Indoor Training Center, Brockman Hall for Opera, the Library Service Center and laboratory spaces in the BioResearch Collaborative and in other research buildings.
For the time being, it seems that construction will remain “essential” under a recent executive order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Jones said that FE&P has told its contractors to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines, which include social distancing.
“Contractors have been warned that failure to observe the CDC guidelines for safe work practices will [result in individual workers being] removed [from] the job sites,” Jones said.
Jones said that the contracting companies have been told to check on their workers and that anyone can report violations to FE&P, but did not say that FE&P will be directly enforcing these guidelines.
Larry Vossler, senior project manager at FE&P, said that the inflatable dome vendor is not yet on site. The recent cancellation of Beer Bike has not accelerated or affected the timeline for the inflatable dome, Vossler said.
“The AstroTurf playing surface is currently being placed, and the dome was not going to be placed until after Beer Bike, so that work is unaffected by the cancellation of Beer Bike,” Vossler said.
Vossler said that contractors have developed safe working guidelines that include social distancing, hand sanitizer and washing stations, “daily assessments and temperature readings.”
Linbeck, the contractor for Brockman Hall for Opera, and Anslow Bryant Construction, the contractor for New Sid and the inflatable dome, did not respond to requests for comment at time of publication.
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