There is a question on every student’s mind when they walk past the construction site on campus: how long will this go on? Despite what seems to be progress on the new building, students are eager to see this project completed. This keen attitude is understandable because future residents of the new building (now called the Charis Live and Learn Centre) were promised to have their new home ready by the start of the Fall term; two months into the school year, they are still waiting.
Nonetheless, pushing back deadlines in the construction business is a frequent occurrence, and in Redeemer’s case, it was expected by most of those involved in the project. In an interview with Alfred Mazereeuw, the liaison between Redeemer and Schilthuis Construction (the company administering the site), he alluded to our school’s difficult situation: “This was an ambitious project undertaken to meet anticipated needs of Redeemer’s growing student population.”
But, what were the specific reasons for the delay? Tim Schilthuis, the project manager for Schilthuis Construction, says some of the delay is attributed to an unexpected large amount of water sinking into their testing holes, which hindered their construction of footings and foundations. They also encountered unsuitable soil, which had to be replaced with granular and concrete, but it took longer than anticipated. However, most of the delay is due to COVID-19 and related supply chain shortages. There is a long, substantial list of materials that the company had to wait on: HVAC units, millwork products, steel beams, rebar, electric panels, the elevator control panel, wood doors, plumbing materials, bathroom features, fire shutters, and more. The delay on typically easily available products has been frustrating.
Students have responded to this delay mostly with disappointment. On the one hand, many were delighted to see a fresh new parking lot beside the unfinished building, as well as new landscaping additions. But, on the other hand, they are still eager more than ever to see the final product. As second-year student Matthew Zantingh told me, “Sometimes, I wake up early in the morning because I hear a truck backing up… Not something I expected coming into another school semester.”
Likewise, future Charis resident Jessica Wattel says that her dormmates have been frustrated during this semester, as they never know the exact day when they can finally move in. As for Zachary Schenk, another future Charis resident, he is eagerly waiting to reside within a new living space, despite temporarily staying in the president’s guest house. For him, the delay is understandable, but it was definitely longer than he expected. While most students have developed patience and acknowledge that this process is not easy, there is a general feeling of disappointment.
After speaking with Tim Schilthuis, he admits that there are a couple of things he could have changed at the beginning of the project to produce a timely outcome. He said, “It would have been helpful to get an earlier start on the project to be able to do the dewatering in the summer, which would have been more efficient to do at that time. We would have tried to pre-order sooner from the suppliers.”
The company expects to have the Charis Live and Learn Centre completed before the beginning of the second semester. To give an optimistic update, Schilthuis is “currently working on the finishing details: painting, flooring, final millwork and plumbing installations and commissioning and testing the systems. But, we are still waiting for wood doors that may extend the delay.” The upper levels will be able to house 170 students, while the lower level will consist of a couple of classrooms and spaces for studying.
Updates like these definitely build excitement for future residents. Although they may be disappointed by the timing of the outcome, they will not be disappointed by the outcome itself. From what anyone can see, the Charis Centre will be a beautiful new addition to this community. Another reason to be proud of Schilthuis is their efforts to cultivate a positive work environment. According to Wesley Brown, a worker from on site, the work environment was excellent and one of the best he has ever experienced.
When asked about how faith plays a role in his position, Mazereeuw commented that “it is important to have faith that this project will be blessed by God. Faith also plays a part in that while we demand much of our contractors, we don’t hold them to impossibly high standards, but that we work together for the common good to find solutions to any problems including schedule issues.”
In the short term, the further delay is unfortunate and inconvenient, but in the long term, it may well be forgotten. Redeemer students look forward to the day that they can learn and live in this beautiful new centre, a time when supply shortages and early morning construction noise are just a bad memory. It can be noted that for future construction projects, there may need to be more realistic expectations set for how quickly a massive new building can be constructed during a pandemic.