Construction of the Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies and Mills Hall, set to be the new home of the Anthropology Department and the Digital and Computational Studies program, is still on track to be completed by December 2022. The erection of the buildings continues despite ongoing labor and supply shortages.
Due to swift action by the construction company, Consigli, and the Bowdoin team after the pandemic, the College was able to keep construction on the original timeline.
“The Bowdoin team led by John Simoneau, Bowdoin’s director of capital projects, Consigli, the construction company, and our design team at HGA, the architectural firm, made extraordinary efforts to source the building materials and obtain competitive bids in a constrained market. In the end, the construction estimate grew by $2.3 million,” Matt Orlando, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer wrote in an email to the Orient.
Consigli has been crucial in minimizing the effects of the labor shortages.
“Yes there are labor shortages in construction, just as seen in other businesses,” Simmoneau wrote in an email to the Orient. “In construction, the shortages actually started before COVID, due to an aging workforce and fewer younger workers ?choosing to enter the trades. As a longer-term issue, the contractor has strategies to avoid issues, such as qualifying sub-contractors based on capacity to meet the project requirements. On a few occasions when sub-contractors had a capacity issue, Consigli has supplemented the crew with its own labor to get past critical milestones.”
There had to be some changes to the initial plans, such as a reduction in the number of skylights, which lowered costs by about $800,000. Changes were not made to decrease the quality or performance of the buildings, and the project is within the $36.5 million budget.
“With roughly 11 months to go, we are currently within budget and on schedule,” Orlando wrote. “I’ll admit we don’t have much wiggle room in either respect, but we are well-positioned given all of the early buyouts Consigli did and the materials already on hand. This is in spite of unprecedented supply chain obstacles and limited contractor availability.”
The College’s commitment to high-quality materials has not changed despite supply issues. The new buildings will showcase mass timber construction and use renewable electricity.
“We feel very fortunate to be in the position we are in with the project,” Orlando said. “I’ve heard stories of other large projects with 25 percent cost overruns and scheduling delays due to supply backlogs that remain unresolved.”
Fortunately, there have been no COVID outbreaks at the job site, according to Simmoneau.
“I wouldn’t say that the changes that the workers are experiencing are very different from what we all are experiencing with masking,” wrote Orlando. “Social distancing and everyday choices we make to limit our exposure risk.”