Two month delay expected for Redpath renovations

Project manager cites “unforeseen site conditions”, promises that construction will halt during finals

 The construction outside the Redpath library will continue at least into early December and possibly longer, according to the architect in charge of the plan.

Students can also expect more construction throughout next fall for the third and final phase of the renovation.

According to Robert Stanley, the Director of Project Management for Facilities Operations and Development, “unforeseen site conditions” will delay the completion of the project past its projected finish date of October.

Delays in sourcing materials for the general contracting firm St. Denis Thompson, as well as additional masonry work, have slowed the project, Stanley said.

“Inevitably when we work on these old buildings, we find lots of surprises. Things aren’t quite what you think they’re going to be,” he told The Daily.

The $1.4-million contract has at least a dozen sub-contractors.

Stanley said that if the project is not completed by early December, it will shut down for the Fall exam period, which begins December 6.

Last fall, the first phase of the Redpath project – the renovation of the walkway connecting the McLennan doors to McTavish Street – was delayed well past its projected completion date of October 2011.

Internal emails obtained by The Daily indicate that phase one of last fall’s renovations was delayed into December partly as a result of a payment dispute between Kingston-Byers, the general contractor, and a masonry subcontractor.

According to emails from within University Services dated November 9, 2011 – the authors and recipients of which are redacted – a delay in the subcontractor’s paycheck resulted in a construction manager “sending a small crew, or no crew at all” in protest.

The final phase of the construction is scheduled to begin just after convocation this spring, and Stanley said he expected it to continue through the Fall 2013 term.

“We understand that this is an inconvenience to the student population, to the employees of the university, but we have no choice. We have a four-month window of downtime,” he said.

He added that construction for phase three could begin as early as May, but that the University has opted not to start until after the convocation ceremony.

Kingston-Byers is one of the many construction firms to have appeared in the Charbonneau Commission, the provincial inquiry into corruption in the Quebec construction industry.

The contractor worked on a Laval water-processing contract that went 60 per cent over budget.

“Kingston-Byers have been doing work for us for a long time,” Stanley said, calling them “one of the best contractors in Quebec.”

Asked if the Charbonneau Commission has had any indirect effect on construction projects at McGill, Stanley said that there is an “insidious attitude of painting people as being guilty just by virtue of ‘you’re in the industry.’”

“There’s a lot of cynicism out there, and it undermines the credibility of my team as project managers and as construction professionals,” he said.

“Internally, within the McGill community most especially, people don’t understand the complexities of the construction industry. And when that misunderstanding becomes disbelief, disbelief then becomes méfiance, lack of confidence, and mistrust,” he said.

Stanley said that he has notified higher administration officials that there is roughly $600 million worth of work to be done on campus during the next six years. “The University is crumbling around us, we have so much deferred maintenance work to address.”

Although the project’s information page on the McGill website states that the renovations will include smoothing out the terrace between McLennan and Redpath, the addition of a green terrace and a railing around the perimetre, Stanley emphasized that this was “not a beautification project.”

The project was initiated to address “chronic leaks [in the drainage system] that were damaging not only the contents of the spaces below but also adversely affecting the reinforced concrete.