Even though most of campus is empty due to facility closures, construction projects continue to see development and are set to follow the same schedule.
Construction workers remain present on campuses across the Tech System to complete the construction projects set before them, despite the lack of students, faculty and staff.
Tech System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell said construction projects are allowed based off state orders.
“If you look at construction around the state, and actually around the country, it’s been deemed one of the essential functions,” he said. “And so, those construction projects that we have had funding already secured for, we’re going to continue with those.”
But, Mitchell said the System is holding off on construction considered to be general maintenance.
“We’ll just push it back for 6 to 12 months pending the time we have a better picture of what the finances will be,” he said.
Regardless of the type of construction project, Billy Breedlove, vice chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction for the Tech System, said worker safety is the top priority.
“Right now, every contractor has COVID-19 protocols are their project sites, and everyone’s following those,” he said. “They’re all a little bit different, but you know, World Health Organization, [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], all those guidelines are being followed by those guys.”
Some examples of health and safety protocols on construction sites include taking temperatures of workers arriving on site, having multiple handwashing stations, practicing social distancing when working and taking breaks and having alternative work shifts, Breedlove said.
“If any worker shows any kind of symptoms, they leave the site, and they are sent home for three days or so until they get all clear before they are allowed back,” he said.
In addition to this, how contractors access materials can be impacted by the shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Breedlove said.
“Probably, the only limitations we’re seeing right now is material delivery,” he said. “Some of the places that we receive material have shut down or some of them may be overseas.”
Despite these few changes, Breedlove said schedules have yet to change for projects, especially for those on the Tech campus in Lubbock, such as the Weeks Hall renovations and the Dustin R. Womble Basketball Practice Facility construction. The same can be said for projects on other campuses, such as the Tech School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo and a new Medical Sciences Building at Tech Health Sciences Center El Paso.
Regarding the vet school, Breedlove said the project is scheduled to complete by fall 2021, which is when the first class is expected to attend.
“As of right now, our schedule is still fall of 2021,” he said. “Not knowing what the future looks like, but that’s our goal.”
A lot of the decisions on projects depend on Mitchell and the presidents of each university within the System, Breedlove said.
“They’re in challenging times right now, so we’ll take the directive from the chancellor and the presidents,” he said. “You know, we don’t have any new projects getting ready to break ground till maybe later in the summer, so when that happens, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Looking ahead, Breedlove said different considerations need to be made on how to proceed with projects in the event the pandemic continues to be an issue.
“When the presidents start looking at their fiscal responsibilities and where they are, some projects could be put on hold for a while,” he said. “I don’t know that yet. But the funding source for our projects, as of right now, nothing has changed.”
With the different consequences of the pandemic, Breedlove said System administration and contractors have to adapt to different challenges.
“It’s different, but we’re learning to adapt,” he said. “Everything seems to be running OK.”