Today is the Summer Solstice – a fitting day for the official “date of substantial completion” of McCord Hall. This is the beginning of a new season in so many ways.
The fences are down, replaced by caution tape, and even that will be gone in a few days. The views are virtually unobstructed now, and anyone strolling by can see easily how McCord Hall embraces its tree-filled patio. Over in BA in the graduate programs and undergraduate honors offices, computers are being disconnected and boxes packed for moving day on Monday. Mike Nixon, our director of school facilities and planning, says that sometime next week, possibly as early as Tuesday, we will be able to visit and walk around the building – without a hard hat, vest, boots, goggles – or escort! Prior to this, no one could visit the site – even the dean – without Mike or a DPR representative leading the way. Safety was serious business on this site during construction, and visitors needed that protection, because as spacious as the patio feels now, it was actually a constricted construction site. DPR got us through with almost no injuries, but after today, McCord Hall is no longer a construction site: it is ours.
The building will be in full use when fall semester starts, and on October 23 there will be a formal opening. But if you visit in the next few weeks you are going to see workers in the building. That’s because “substantial completion” means just that: substantial, not final.
“Technically, substantial completion really means that the contractor is providing a building to the owner that is fully functional life safety-wise and can be used for its intended use,” Nixon explained. The work that is left does not affect life or safety. For example, there are classroom spaces that will not be complete on Monday, but there are no classes scheduled until fall, so that’s acceptable. And on the first floor of the North Wing – in the famous prow – there will be a Freshii cafe. The company has not yet started building it, however.
Our friends from DPR moved from the trailers that had resided next to the SRC in late April, into space on the fourth floor of the South Wing with windows that look through the tilted columns toward the rec center. Tables covered with fat rolls of plans and desks for the engineers and supervisors fill the space, making me wonder how they ever jammed themselves into the trailers. They will be in residence until final completion, Mike says, and will be on call for small projects after that.
During a walk-through yesterday we saw the open office space that will be home to graduate programs staff: a honeycomb of roomy “cubes” still clear of computers, paper — and people! It was absolutely quiet in the room, thanks to the state-of-art AC system. Because of the design of the HVAC system, McCord Hall doe not hum like most buildings — not yet anyway! The quiet will be broken Monday when W. P. Carey staff moves in.
So when the move is over, I encourage you to take a stroll around and look for what architect David Ottavio calls the building’s “moments”: the pattern of shadows on the floor of the North Wing cast by the sun shades in the morning, the reflections in the storefront glass that faces the patio, the contrast of gloss and matt finishes inside the oculus. If you are around at twilight, watch the windows over the cantilevered end of the South Wing as they reflect the blazing sun. Then turn around and look at the light glowing inside the building, striped by the horizontal bars of those sun shades.
I think we won’t fully appreciate the care that was taken in the design and construction until we have used McCord Hall for a while, but if you pay attention you will see beautiful details everywhere.