New business school delays opening
Construction complete, but classroom technology yet to be installed
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
UNH business students may have returned to campus disappointed after winter break when news spread that their classes would not be held in the new Peter T. Paul College building, even after the business school officially changed its name in late January.
Executive Director of Facilities Services Larry Van Dessel said the building itself is finished and far from a failure.
“We had a huge success here,” Dessel said. “The things that have changed are all in UNH’s favor.”
While it is true that classes are not yet being held in the building, the actual construction of the building is complete. All that’s left to finalize is the enormous amount of audiovisual equipment that needs to be installed, wired and tested. Once that is complete, the Peter T. Paul College building will be useable for classes.
The building is currently open for entry. There are no set dates as to when it will be open for classes, but the switch from McConnell Hall will likely take place just before or after spring break.
The Peter T. Paul College building was originally a $55 million project that was to be completed in 18 months, but it ended up costing $7 million less than originally anticipated. It was decided that $2 million would be used to purchase increased audiovisual equipment while the remaining $5 million would be used to reduce the budget and amount of loan.
Some of the equipment includes sound-sensitive security cameras, breakout rooms and a series of “pods” inside the classrooms, which allow students to break into groups and work on separate wall-mounted screens.
According to Dessel, the audiovisual components are separate from the construction elements of the building. Because they are on separate contracts, the two don’t overlap, which caused many delays in the completion of the technologies but not the building.
“When we increased the audiovisuals we essentially caused ourselves a longer duration project, and we didn’t have any more duration to give,” Dessel said. “We did accomplish the original task. The building is open and we have a certificate of occupancy to be in the building.”
In addition to the added audiovisuals, the construction team encountered a fair number of roadblocks during construction, one of which was the amount of rock in the way. The team found twice the amount of rock that was in the contract, causing a prolonged process.
Dessel said he does not blame the rock for the delayed opening but admits that if the decision to purchase more audiovisuals were not made the target date would have most likely been achieved. He said he still thinks the extra technology was a good idea.
“We will always regret that we were not able to finish it so the students could get in,” Dessel said. “If we hadn’t added almost $2 million to the audiovisual, I think we would’ve made it. As it is, I think it’s a good decision. Ultimately, our world is technology-driven. It’d be hard to say we made a bad choice.”
The plan is to first finish the first floor, which has most of the student classrooms. The audiovisual team will finish the second floor next, and then the ground floor.
The only two rooms that will not be finished for classes are the 225-seat auditorium and Room G85, a room associated with the kitchen. Neither room is scheduled for use during the academic year, so they have the lowest priority.
Because there is no specific date when the building will officially open for classes, plans were made to make the transition as easy as possible. Most of the faculty and staff members have already moved into the building.
“This is an awesome building. It was designed with great thought,” Dessel said. “The business school is going to become a leader in its field. It’s going to be exciting.”