Last Friday afternoon, a tour of 11 students entered the abyss that is the West Quad Project. As they followed Kenyon Construction Project Manager, Seth Millam, into what students lovingly call “The Pit,” each student donned a bright yellow vest, safety goggles, a purple hard hat and a sense of their excitement and curiosity.
Friday’s group was the first in a series of West Quad Project tours in the coming months. The decision to open tours to the student body arose after Student Council Buildings and Grounds Committee Chair Nathan Grosh ’19 asked Millam to take the Committee on the tour earlier this semester.
“It is really enjoyable to see the construction, but I thought it was most interesting to meet and talk to the dedicated and passionate construction workers and managers who are there,” said Grosh. “I think Seth realized the value of letting students understand the progress going on and for [students] to begin to take ownership of the [West Quad] construction.”
Millam agreed. “It’s nice to get out with students, faculty and staff to see their reactions and excitement regarding the project,” he said. “Truly the tours are a motivator and a pleasant reminder as to why we’re building the project in the first place.”
Students did not know what to expect when they entered the pit, but were intrigued nonetheless. “I wanted to see what was happening behind the wall,” Georgie Lellman ’20 said. Ezra Moguel ’21 added, “It seemed like it would be a fun opportunity.”
The first thing the group saw upon entering the pit was one completed wall of the library’s lower levels on the eastern side. According to Millam, this wall is 30 feet high. With the northern library wall about halfway done, Millam expects all four underground library walls to be completed by late April or early May, thus keeping the library project on track for its July 2020 completion date.
At first, students seemed dubious of this date, seeing as there were several delays in the fall due to excavation issues. But Millam explained that the project has not exceeded its number of weather days set aside each month, and that they were able to pay the concrete company to work more hours and have gotten back on track.
In addition to the project’s progress, Millam noted that the construction companies have been environmentally conscious throughout the project. During demolition, the construction team was able to recycle 75 percent of the material in weight, and thus far, have been able to recycle 90 to 95 percent of the material used in phase two. Millam said that the goal for the project as a whole was to recycle 75 percent of the material. The site also has a rainwater harvesting tank to water the grass on the parking garage roof.
Students left the tour feeling satisfied, informed and even excited about the construction to come. “I really appreciated the opportunity to go and see firsthand the new projects taking place on campus,” Toby McCabe ’21 said. “The tour definitely makes me appreciate the hard work and dedication that is going into investing in Kenyon’s future. And with so much cool science involved, how could I not be thrilled?”
Julia Unangst ’20 shared this appreciation of transparency, and was excited for what is to come. “I can’t enjoy the finished product, so why not enjoy the process?” she said. After going on this first tour, Unangst now plans on taking the tour once a month until she graduates to watch the project progress.