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Facilities implements new safety precautions to keep projects on schedule

Marston Boathouse Renewal and Performing Arts Center construction stay on track despite concerns over materials

As COVID-19 continues to affect nearly every aspect of University operations, Facilities Management has had to adapt to keep new construction projects on track and workers safe.

Marston Boathouse and the Performing Arts Center, two of the University’s capital construction projects, are set to finish on their original timeline.  

“We here in Providence and Rhode Island have been so fortunate that our projects have continued essentially uninterrupted,” said Paul Dietel, assistant vice president of planning, design and construction. “We haven’t skipped a beat.” 

Construction of the Performing Arts Center is on track despite some initial concerns about acquiring materials during COVID-19, Dietel said. 

The building will host space for performance, teaching, and research for music, theater and dance,” according to the Facilities Management website. 

It is now scheduled to be completed in Spring 2023, and “after completion, there will be several months of testing and commissioning before the venue can ‘go live,’” Dietel wrote.

In order to adhere to a schedule while also keeping workers healthy, the University has also introduced new safety precautions on all active construction sites. 

Workers have their temperature taken and fill out a symptom and exposure questionnaire each day before work. They must maintain an appropriate distance from each other, and handwashing stations were also installed at construction sites. 

All workers are also required to wear a mask at all times, which often fogs up their work goggles, Dietel said. Small changes, such as workers continually taking off their goggles to clean them, have caused minor productivity loss. 

Workers are not required to take COVID-19 tests and do not participate in Brown’s asymptomatic testing program. If they are feeling sick or exhibit symptoms, they are turned away from work.

Despite the new difficulties, the workers “keep showing up,” Dietel said. “They are at risk to a degree, I guess anybody is, but without them, we couldn’t build these projects, so we are very, very fortunate and thankful to our labor force.”

The PAC’s topping-off ceremony — a construction industry event where the highest piece of structural steel is signed and placed — is planned for December 2020. The recent topping-off ceremony for the Wellness Center and Residence Hall project, which was expedited to welcome students for the summer semester, was held virtually. Still, Dietel said he hopes “to have people on site socially distanced for (the Performing Arts Center) when the time comes.”

The Marston Boathouse Renewal, a project updating the building that houses the men’s and women’s crew teams near India Point Park, will be completed in December, Dietel said. The first round of renovations was completed in 2018 and included a new bulkhead, boat ramps, dock enhancements and floats. 

The second phase of renovations consists of  “structural stabilization, life safety upgrades, mechanical, electrical and plumbing system upgrades, as well as program realignments in the team locker rooms and tank room, and cosmetic enhancements throughout the building,” according to the Facilities Management website

In addition to major construction projects, facilities management took on several smaller projects over the summer to support the return of students to campus, including installing audio-visual upgrades to classrooms for hybrid learning, removing and upgrading classroom furniture to allow for social distancing and upgrading bathrooms with no-touch faucets and door foot pulls. 


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