The HSU library construction nears completion. Electrician Norm Hubbard prepares temporary power to replace the existing switch gear in the library on Oct. 13 | Photo by Dakota Cox

Library construction picks up the pace during the pandemic

The library undergoes seismic retrofit construction
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The library undergoes seismic retrofit construction

Humboldt State University’s library has been under construction since 2018 when the contract was set and planned in 2015. The construction project is for the library and the theatre arts buildings on campus, both buildings were not safe regarding seismic activity.

Jason Baugh, HSU project manager, has been communicating between the contractors and campus on the seismic retrofit project for both buildings.

“Building safety is to keep these buildings maybe not 100% secure, standing and occupiable after a major earthquake, but getting everyone out safely,” Baugh said.

The overall goal was to have it safe for seismic activity but other projects and delays started to pile on as time progressed.

“The California building code changes every three years, the chancellor’s office for the CSU also has their own internal code review and it’s basically mirroring what the California building code is,” Baugh said. “They have their standards where they want all their buildings to adhere to and so that changed and as we submitted plans for review, we missed the code cycle and everything had to be re-evaluated.”

Setbacks such as new seismic code, modifications in original plans and lower level issues with the foundation have led to longer construction time than anticipated. Recently the project got sprinklers in the library.

“There was a few areas of the lower library basement, and basically it was where books, some of the special collections library books that they don’t use on a daily basis but are archived for various reasons,” Baugh said. “For some reason, only that area was sprinkled.”

Changes to the project made the years of construction go on longer than originally thought. The overall budget for the project of both buildings was $20 million plus add ons of almost $4 million dollars.

Daytime construction has increased due to COVID-19 restrictions. Cyril Oberlander, HSU’s library dean, has been overseeing and delegating people to new temporary areas of work.

“It also created new opportunities, rather than waiting for the sprinkler project for a couple of years,” Oberlander said. “It’s something we can do now because no one is in the building which is pretty good.”

Since the library will most likely be closed in the spring semester due to COVID-19, construction will continue at a faster pace. Oberlander is hopeful that students and all HSU personnel will enjoy the new library when things are back to normal.

“Thank goodness they really were resilient through it because it’s finishing up now,” Oberlander said.

Jaime Clough, a senior at HSU, had trouble in the previous semester with construction noise and communication of the project’s finishing time.

“I was in the library every single day. I was there on weekends. I basically lived in the library and it was kind of tricky,” Clough said. “I mean sometimes you have to go through random doors, sometimes the stairwells are closed and you have to go around the backside. You’d be sitting in the nice quiet corner trying to study for finals and all of the sudden there’s a jackhammer on the wall right next to you.”

Construction is set to be finished around June of 2021. With construction schedules and the library closed, construction could be finished before the fall 2021 semester.

“June is my goal, I think it’s realistic, as I kind of indicated you don’t know till you dive into things especially with retrofit projects,” Baugh said. “Hoping for the best, I think the end of June is a realistic date and that we may have a month buffer of working through any problems.”

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