On Tuesday, the first day of the semester at the University of Virginia, several people walked to and fro behind Bond House, the university’s newest dorm, across a dusty strip of concrete that neighbored a barren patch of dirt and a grassy hillside.
Second-year students moved in on Sunday after a “photo finish” construction, according to Don Sundgren, associate vice president of Facilities Management and chief facilities officer for UVa. Facilities crews will go back over the building and address cosmetic loose ends in the coming days.
“Any project that gets done that fast, there will be minor issues that we have to go back and complete, such as ceiling tiles and walls that got nicked,” Sundgren said.
Crews will lay down mulch and install more permanent landscaping in the coming months.
As the finish line neared, Sundgren said, UVa realized more workers would be needed to complete the job on time. Due to a tight labor market, the contractor was able to hire some additional employees, according to Sundgren, but UVa also reassigned some of its own staff to work on the project. Despite the increased staffing costs, Sundgren said, the dorm was still completed on budget.
“We supplemented with our own tradespeople, much to the benefit of our cost margins,” Sundgren said.
Bond House, named after the late civil rights leader and UVa professor Julian Bond, can house 311 second-year students. The university holds 6,650 beds available for undergraduate housing; they are expected to be nearly at capacity this school year.
Currently, almost all first-year students and about 40% of second-year students live in UVa housing.
UVa President Jim Ryan’s strategic plan, which was approved by the Board of Visitors on Aug. 2, recommends establishing “a series of residential communities that will house all first- and second-year students on Grounds and provide ways for third- and fourth-year students to stay connected to their residential communities.”
Members of university leadership have said they have not yet made any decisions on whether the university will achieve that goal by building more housing or creating cohorts like the four Harry Potter “houses” that could offer students a sense of community throughout their education.
Residents of Bond House will likely live in a construction zone for the next several years as the university begins work on a new dorm and health center next door.
The new dorm project, currently dubbed Brandon Avenue Phase II, will include 350 beds for upperclassmen, as well as dining and parking facilities. The new $100 million Student Health and Wellness Center is under construction; completion is expected in 2021, according to Sundgren.
In all, Sundgren is managing $1.5 billion in construction across Grounds, ranging from renovations to massive efforts like the UVa Medical Center’s new emergency wing and tower.