Call it perfect timing.
On the same day as CEE officially launched its Mason Building Renovation website, the last of the demolition crews from Balfour Beatty cleared out of the now gutted 90,000-square-foot building.
Both happened on December 7.
Both are still works in progress.
The Mason Building still has more than eight months of intense renovation work ahead of it. Similarly, the Mason Building Renovation Project still has plenty of need for financial support. Though the state and the Institute have donated $6.5 million to the project, around $4 million more must be raised by private philanthropic efforts.
To mark the occasion, we grabbed a hard hat and took a brief tour of Mason. It’s dusty and dimly lit, but the 90,000-square-foot structure still has a commanding presence.
“We’re basically down to the walls,” said Chris Bohn, the assistant superintendent, as he walked across the cardboard-tiled foyer of the building. “Well, some finishing touches are in. Like, underneath this cardboard, actually, there’s terrazzo tile. But we’ve got that covered up with a layer of Masonite and Styrofoam. We won’t be seeing that for awhile.”
Bohn and his Institute colleague, Andy Udell, were quick to point out other features that only a construction engineer could imagine.
“Here’s the student commons, where we’ll be putting in glass storefront walls for the meeting rooms,” said Udell, as he pointed to an empty concrete cavern, adorned only with wood studs (pictured right). “It will have lots of light."
In the coming weeks, Bohn said, his crews will be reviewing architectural plans and negotiating with subcontractors for the next phase of the renovations.
Electrical work. Sprinkler systems. Plumbing. And the framing of walls for newly configured offices, labs and classrooms.
Bohn estimates that the number of workers on the site will drop from 70 to around 50, but the work won’t be any less demanding.
“If you look around, you’ll see wires just hanging out of the ceiling, because they had been resting on the ceiling tiles when we pulled out the ceilings,” he said. “That’s not the way we’ll put them back.”
Like the asbestos that was abated from the Mason Building, the unsecured electrical work and the lack of sprinkler systems are holdovers from another time – 45 years ago – when construction standards were different. It’s not the only artifact from yesteryear that crews uncovered.
“Some of the original lighting that they used, during construction, was still hanging behind the ceiling tiles on the fifth floor,” says Andy Udell. “It’d been up there for like 40 years.”
When they took out the walls, Bohn said, crews found that some of the original drywall was backed by cement, not studs. Another surprise that modern-day builders will not repeat.
“But we expect to find things like that, in the end, and it’s really about solving one problem so you can get on to the next one,” he said. “We’re on target."