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Caution: Construction Ahead

Do you know what ties together LeMarchant Place, the Wallace McCain Learning Commons, the Collaborative Health Education Building, the Fitness Centre, and the Student Union Building? They’re all part of Dalhousie’s ongoing plan to make construction a permanent part of the university student experience.

Most of these projects are important in one way or another, of course. It’s not so black-and-white as Evilcorp burning student money with matches from Big Construction. But to me, a regular student at Dal, all I know is that plans going back further than I’ve been attending have set in motion a seemingly never-ending cycle of building on and around our campuses.

I understand that there’s increasing demand for study space, for heating upgrades, for housing, and all the other things that have changed since our campuses were laid out nearly a century ago. But large-scale infrastructure upgrades should be spread out over time according to necessity, at a pace that allows for minimal negative impact on the people who live and work near the construction sites.

For me, the problem is on two levels: why do all these projects need to happen now, and why are the ones most visible (to me, plebeian I am) running late?

The Wallace McCain Learning Commons is an addition to the LSC being put in as a study space to provide for 20% of the student population. Wouldn’t it be nice if the construction on it started before the semester began? I spent the first two years of my degree listening to construction every night from the LeMarchant Place, and frankly I’d really rather not be faced with the same noise on my way to classes every day. Not as if I’ve got much choice.

The Fitness Center, a building replacing the Eliza Ritchie dormitories, is budgeted for $23.3 million and was slated for beginning construction as of late summer 2015. I’d be amazed if they tore down the old building in three days, let alone start the new one. That could be chalked up to bureaucratic setbacks, if not for the report detailing this fact being released only this July.

Similarly, I’ve heard whispers that the Student Union Building was supposed to have society offices ready by the start of classes — now I’m hearing that they won’t be ready until closer to the end of 2015.

Lemarchant’s completion date was pushed most of a year back during my attendance. I can only imagine how punctual other projects will be, knowing the track record of many construction plans. Perhaps I’m overstepping my boundaries, commenting on a Herculean effort of resource management and labour, but I’d think that after a few thousand years practice, our architects might know how long it takes to put up a building.

As an aspiring healthy person, I could point to studies and papers pleading with us to acknowledge the negative effects of noise pollution on health, and could observe that a handful of buildings being constructed all across campus could be a form of that.

But perhaps I should leave that correlation to an ambitious graduate student somewhere to study, and watch them run into the wall of groups who would rather see ‘modernized’ sports equipment and study tools around campus.

A constant parade of shiny things is best, even if the constant cacophony of construction has turned this campus into a never-ending Stomp performance, right?


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