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West Quad project continues as planned despite pandemic

West Quad project continues as planned despite pandemic

As students return to campus for the school year, construction continues for the three new buildings of the West Quad: Chalmers Library, a new center for social sciences and a new home for admissions. These three buildings will be connected by an underground parking garage. In the 2019-2020 academic year, the College announced a delay in the original August 2020 completion date, promising that the library would be finished by spring 2021.

Despite complications presented by both the COVID-19 pandemic and by weather, the entire project is on track for this scheduled completion date. The Chalmers Library is the nearest to completion, while the admissions building is scheduled for a summer 2021 turnover and the academic building (housing the social sciences) for summer 2022.  

The parking garage will serve as storage space for materials and contractor offices as the crew moves to begin exterior construction of the new academic building. Construction Project Manager Seth Millam discussed the crew’s progress with the Collegian, sharing that “the parking garage is making good progress right now. … We’re probably 60 percent to 70 percent complete with the concrete.”  

The West Quad is intended to function as a modern learning space; it will hold classrooms, offices and study spaces equipped with technology intended to advance students’ education. President Sean Decatur expressed excitement over the “opportunity to have spaces for more collaborative teaching and learning, especially using technology.” He believes the new resources and communal spaces will be extremely impactful for the Kenyon  student body and staff. In particular, he feels that housing all of the social sciences in a single academic building will allow for more collaboration between departments. “Physically connecting the spaces in which different departments occupy can really enhance the degree of collaboration among faculty and students,” Decatur said. 

Although the pandemic did not, surprisingly, delay construction progress, it did create some bumps in the road. To help navigate the crisis, hand-sanitizing and hand-washing stations were set up, and social distancing guidelines were put  into place. 

The crew felt the impact of the pandemic the most in the first two weeks as they navigated how to continue working safely. “Early on, there was a bunch of confusion about what was required [and] a lot of concern coming from the individual tradesmen on site, who have families at home,” Millam explained. Workers were unsure if they were still expected to be on site. He added that the team struggled with a shortage of staff as some crew members took voluntary time away from work in the early stages of the pandemic.  

The pandemic did not have an impact on the sustainability efforts concerning the Quad project, according to Vice President for Facilities, Planning and Sustainability Ian Smith. The College is continuing to build the West Quad to meet LEED (Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification standards; LEED’s objective is to push architecture in a more environmentally friendly direction by incentivizing energy efficiency.  

To find regularly posted updates on construction visit the Construction Notices and Updates page on the Kenyon College website. To submit feedback on any of Kenyon’s construction projects, visit the Campus Projects page

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