Worker shortage delays completion of Bowdoin building

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BRUNSWICK — Classes are well underway at Bowdoin’s Roux Center for the Environment, but construction on the college’s first new academic building in more than a decade is still underway due to a shortage of workers.

A sketch plan for the three-story building was approved by the Planning Board in 2016, and a groundbreaking was held in May 2017, with a projected completion date of the fall 2018 semester.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be Oct. 11, and feature an academic symposium and a keynote address by filmmaker Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.

Matt Orlando, senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer at Bowdoin, said the college was looking for “substantial completion” on the building by the second or third week of August. Classes began Aug. 29.

“The focus was really to get the classroom labs and faculty offices ready in time for classes that started at the end of August, and we were able to do that,” he said.

On Sept. 17, students could be seen filing in and out of the new structure on Harpswell Road as construction workers moved around them and outside.

Workers are installing glass in other parts of the building, and what Orlando called other “punch list items” which were either on back order or not able to be completed because of difficulty finding contractors.

Any time a large-scale construction project is completed, he said, a number of contractors are involved to complete work such as insulation, concrete pouring, landscaping and painting.

Though he said he does not think the labor shortage is an issue unique to Maine, Orlando said he thinks it is “much more pronounced here.”

“After the last financial crisis where we lost a few of those major commercial sub-contractors doing these jobs they never came back, and now we’re back to peak demand for those skilled trades,” he said. “And there just aren’t enough in the state to go around and we’re all sort of fighting and vying for the same contractors.”

The college received a $10 million donation to construct the building in early 2016 from David and Barbara Roux of Upperville, Virginia.

According to the facilities management page on the Bowdoin website, the end date for the project is now set to be Sept. 26.

Orlando said the college was able to get a conditional certificate of occupancy, which allows classes to be held but requires a firewall between learning spaces and the areas that are still under construction.

The part that is still being built, he said, is a large assembly space visible from College Street known as “the lantern.”

The lantern will be a lecture hall with the capacity to seat 125 people on two levels, making it possible to view lectures from above.

“That’s sort of the last thing we’re going to focus on because that didn’t need to be done in order to conduct classes in the building,” Orlando said.

He said there have been some inconveniences associated with the unfinished building, such as not being able to run field trips from the Roux Center.

The primary two college departments that will use it are Earth and Oceanographic Science and the Environmental Studies Program.

Orlando also said the Roux Center has received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum award, which, he said, “is very difficult to do.”

According to the LEED website, the company gives four categories of awards: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

The level of award given depends on the number of points a project gets, which, the website states, is contingent on how energy and resource-efficient it is.

Some of the amenities the Roux Center will have include vegetation on the roof and a solar array. Orlando also said there will be “a lot of water re-capture going on” and it will have “a very efficient heating and ventilation system.”

Ultimately, Orlando said the new center is a “game-changer” for the college and its study of the environment.

“(The) timing couldn’t have been better in terms of, this is helping us address the major global issue and giving our students and faculty a chance to really research it,” he said.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Classes have begun in Bowdoin’s new $16.5 million Roux Center for the Environment, but construction remains incomplete.

Classes have begun in Bowdoin’s new $16.5 million Roux Center for the Environment, but construction remains incomplete.

Classes have begun in Bowdoin’s new $16.5 million Roux Center for the Environment, but construction remains incomplete.

Classes have begun in Bowdoin’s new $16.5 million Roux Center for the Environment, but construction remains incomplete.

Classes have begun in Bowdoin’s new $16.5 million Roux Center for the Environment, but construction remains incomplete.

Classes have begun in Bowdoin’s new $16.5 million Roux Center for the Environment, but construction remains incomplete.

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