Facilities Management Urges Caution Near 'Tunnel Project' Construction
Nov. 6, 2015
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
|The quadrangle formed by Austin Hall and the Thomason and Dan Rather Buildings, all the way to the Estill Building, will be under construction through May 2016 as Facilities Management replaces pipes and pipe support systems underground. Bearkats and SHSU visitors are urged to be cautious in the area.|
Beneath the heart of campus, within the Quad area created by Austin Hall, the Dan Rather Communications Building and the Thomason Building, lies an underground concrete tunnel.
Inside this tunnel you can find the fibers that provide SHSU’s buildings with its technological capabilities and chilled water lines that provide the air conditioning for many buildings on the west side of campus.
As years have gone by, the pipe supports that carry this water to various buildings have begun rusting and falling onto the floor, which has increasingly caused concern for SHSU’s Facilities Management department.
“It is a huge maintenance concern, because if these pipes were to burst, buildings in that area will lose comfort cooling,” said Michael Lampson, construction manager for Facilities Management.
Because of this, Facilities Management has begun what is being called the “Tunnel Pipe Replacement Project,” which will include the replacement of these underground chilled water lines and the supports, as well as the installation of lighting and communication lines within the tunnel.
The project will include a number of steps that have begun with the installation of ADA-compliant bridges and the fencing off of certain areas. While buildings will not be directly affected, the surrounding area will be a construction site, with materials, barricades and workers present.
The project is currently in the early stages of placing aboveground water pipes that will temporarily supply nearby buildings with air conditioning, as needed.
When the temporary external pipes are in place, work will begin to expose the tunnel for the removal of the existing utilities. Finally, the pipe, electrical and communication will be replaced within the tunnel. The entire process is expected to be complete by May 2016.
As the construction is occurring, there are a number of things that members of the Bearkat community and campus guests should be aware of.
First, pedestrian traffic flow will be limited during this process. The bridges that are being installed may be significantly narrower than some of the sidewalks, especially in the case of the ramp that will be installed between the Estill and Farrington Buildings around Thanksgiving.
There also will be approximately nine locations in the quadrangle where tunnel access points will be opened; these areas will be barricaded and covered for safety purposes.
“We are suggesting that if there is an alternate route students and campus visitors can take, they should avoid the area,” Lampson said. “If not, there will be signage posted throughout the area, and students and guests are encouraged to follow the directions provided on those signs and stay on designated sidewalks and ramps.
“We are encouraging everyone to be cautious and aware of your surroundings, especially during wet and/or icy weather conditions,” Lampson said.
Second, because the IT fibers found within the tunnel will need to be rerouted before the underground work commences, there will be a couple of strategic communication-shutdown days, which will affect technology in quad-area buildings. These are anticipated to take place during the weekends and for only a few minutes each time.
Students, faculty and staff will be notified of the dates for these outages via email.
Finally, steps will be taken to identify and manage any environmental hazards that may be associated with the project.
A year in the making, the project was timed to cause the least amount of inconvenience to members of the Bearkat community and SHSU visitors, to be the most cost-effective as possible, and to ensure that prior funding was secured.
“Because we are altering the air conditioning, we decided that fall was the most opportune time in case something goes afoul,” Lampson said. “This is a project that comes with the growth of the university. As enrollment at Sam Houston has reached an all-time high, it is important that infrastructure be upgraded to accommodate that growth.”
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