Science center opening on time despite rain

Construction of the Swenson Science Center faced delays over winter break, but remains on schedule to open in fall 2020. The project, impacted by inclement weather and compacted tree roots found during excavation, was delayed by more than six full days and has blocked off access to parts of campus.

Making progress: After a six-day halt in construction from heavy rain, the Swenson Science Center is still on track for fall 2020. Until then, the Spine will remain blocked off. Photo provided by Katherine Lippert - Reporter
Making progress: After a six-day halt in construction from heavy rain, the Swenson Science Center is still on track for fall 2020. Until then, the Spine will remain blocked off.
Photo provided by Katherine Lippert – Reporter

“We had a bit of rain at the end of last year that slowed us down for a few days, but this last rain was fairly destructive,” said Valerie Crooks, senior project manager at California Lutheran University overseeing new construction.

Heavy rains in early January caused damage to the construction site that required some of the excavation for the foundation of the building to be restarted.

“When you have open holes and trenches, [rain] just erodes them and you get mud accumulation on the bottom and the sides fall in…They had to clean it all out and form it back up,” Crooks said.

Until it opens, activity from construction of the Swenson Science Center has areas of campus blocked off, in addition to some parking spots. Construction began the end of August 2018 and shortly after, an email went out to students stating that the portion of campus referred to as the Spine would be closed for approximately four weeks. Later, updated signs were placed at each end of the closure indicating the fencing would be removed by November.

According to facilities staff, the decision was made shortly thereafter to keep the Spine closed for the duration of construction. Students walking between Soiland Humanities Center and the Swenson Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences have taken to walking through the Spies-Bornemann Center for Education and Technology (SBET) building or around the construction entirely.

“When we actually started to look at it with the general contractor we found that we had so little clearance for working space between where the building was and [SBET] that, in order to move equipment around there, and particularly when we’re moving steel and big heavy objects, it’s just not safe. We would just be opening it and closing it, so it just didn’t make any sense,” Crooks said.

Associate Vice President of Facilities Ryan Van Ommeren said there have not been any complaints regarding closing the Spine or rerouting foot traffic.

“In fact, someone said to me, a student, that they’d never been in Spies-Bornemann before and now they kind of like walking through it,” Van Ommeren said

In addition to the rain, the construction faced delays because of tree roots found deep in the soil during excavation. Crooks said a nursery based in Somis was called to remove the root bulbs of some of the vegetation and trees that were impacting the building progress. Cal Lutheran received a credit from the nursery and will use it for landscaping once the building has been completed.

Despite the setbacks, Crooks said the project remains in the original expected time frame for completion.

“We were planning to finish early enough in 2020 that, even though the schedule is slipping, I see no problem completing in the spring and having adequate time to move all the labs, get set up and equipment re-calibrated and ready to hold classes come the Fall semester of 2020,” Crooks said.

Senior Shannon Martin lives on campus and said it seems like the construction impacts everything. In particular, she noted that the noise from the trucks has interrupted classes and she regularly avoids the closure on the Spine by walking around Regent Avenue. The construction has made living on campus worse, she said.

In addition to closing the Spine, two parking spaces along Pioneer Street, three spaces on Faculty Street and four on Regent Avenue have been removed as part of construction of the science building.

“I think it was started at the wrong time; they should have started during the summer. Parking is already bad­—the construction just makes it harder,” junior commuter Austin Drake Malabuyoc said.

Van Ommeren said there is no current plan regarding replacement of the nine parking spots that were removed on the surface streets of campus. However, 100 spaces were added near the tennis courts on North Campus in a temporary gravel parking lot, which was added after the construction began.

At this time, Van Ommeren said the university has no plans for removing the lot.

Katherine Lippert