Summertime means work time on Penn, other campuses

Michael Dausch (left), executive director of design and construction management at the University of Pennsylvania, with Anne Papageorge, vice president of facilities and real estate, and architect David Hollenberg.
Michael Dausch (left), executive director of design and construction management at the University of Pennsylvania, with Anne Papageorge, vice president of facilities and real estate, and architect David Hollenberg. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 09, 2014

The number in Michael Dausch's head is 66 - that's how many work days separate graduation at the University of Pennsylvania and the arrival of students for the fall semester.

"We count it down," said Dausch, executive director of design and construction management at Penn.

And with good reason.

When 25,000 Penn students head home for the summer, Dausch's department goes into hyper-blitz. This summer - a typical one - 40 projects with a price tag of $60 million are underway at Penn, the city's largest private employer.

Projects include remodeled classrooms, newly painted residence halls, roof repairs, a spruced-up facade, an overhauled pedestrian bridge, an expanded chilled-water plant for air-conditioning - one million square feet of renovation in all on the 13 million-square-foot campus.

"We try to do the lion's share of our work over the summer, because we don't want to be disruptive to the academic calendar," said Anne Papageorge, vice president for facilities and real estate services.

Each year, the pressure increases as the deadline nears. This year, the magic date is Aug. 18.

"It's like a Broadway show opening. They finish sweeping just as the curtain is rising," said David Hollenberg, university architect.

Contractors, Dausch said, know the stakes.

"Our contractors have schedules showing what they are doing every day," he said, "and if they get behind, they're working overtime, Saturdays, Sundays, whatever it takes."

The university has two major construction projects underway - a new residence hall and a neural and behavioral sciences building. Among 300,000 square feet of new construction Penn is working on this summer, they will not be completed by the fall term but will have made major progress, Dausch said.

Now just a network of connected beams, the 350-bed residence hall is projected to open in August 2016, with students and faculty living there and collaborating on lessons.

The campus also is home to four other construction projects for office and commercial space and apartments being built by third parties.

Colleges throughout the region try to make the most of the long summer days, when their campuses are less populated.

Drexel University, next door, has 10 projects underway, including improvements to its co-op center, the building that houses its School of Public Health, its athletic center, and its family health services center. The projects, totaling $30 million, encompass one million square feet of renovation, a spokeswoman said. Not included in the numbers is a major university housing and retail building going up on campus through a third party.

Penn spends $200 million to $250 million annually on construction and renovation, not including the hospital or the four third-party projects, Papageorge said.

Students likely won't notice some work, like the improved facade on the Jaffe History of Art Building. But they probably will appreciate the new small-group study rooms at the Wharton School's Huntsman Hall.

At Meyerson Hall, home to Penn Design, a crew - part of 570 construction workers on campus daily this summer - busily spackled and sanded toward finishing new studios. Last summer, work was on the floor below.

"This transformation is making its way up through the building," Hollenberg said. "At the end of four or five years, this will be a very different building."

Penn's Summer Of Construction

Timeline: 66 work days

Projects: 40

Cost: $60 million

Total annual construction and renovation budget: $200 million to $250 million

Number of construction workers on campus: 570

New construction: 300,000 square feet

Renovation and improvements: One million square feet

Total size of campus: 13 million square feet.

*Note: Does not include the hospital or third-party projects being done on Penn land.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania

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