Wellness woes


The construction of UNF’s Student Wellness and Sports Education Center hit another hitch this summer.

The concrete foundations, or footings, for one of the center’s exterior staircases were misplaced by nearly seven feet.

“The consultants located the footings where they needed to be … but the subcontractor who poured the concrete made that error and is no longer on site,” said Zak Ovadia, the director of UNF Campus Planning, Design and Construction.

The concrete subcontractor in question, Quality Concrete Structures of Atlanta, sees it differently.

“Quality Concrete follows the layout that Gilbane [Construction] furnishes to them,” said Dave Sawyer, general manager of Quality Concrete. “We followed the layout from the surveyor that they hired, and the staircase was off … I fixed [the footing] at my expense.”

Sawyer said his company removed the misplaced concrete and had the site inspected before relocating the concrete footings to their appropriate place.

Dirk van Luling, the senior manager of special projects at Gilbane Building Company, the construction management on the project, and the project manager on this site, said the concrete footing was not removed at all but simply extended to cover the intended area.

Footings are the foundation for parts of the building, such as stairwells, elevator shafts and walls, that help transfer the structural load of the structure to the earth. Footings are mostly underground and won’t be seen after the building has been constructed.

In this particular case, the mistake in the footing layout will not have an affect on any other aspect of the building, such as plumbing or electrical layout, said van Luling.

A discrepancy emerges in footing the bill, however.

“There will be a cost to our insurance company,” van Luling said.

This incident, along with issues like lagging behind schedule and general quality, led to Gilbane’s termination of Quality Concrete in favor of Jim’s Concrete of Jacksonville.

“They weren’t living up to the schedule we had established. The level of quality wasn’t up to our expectations and what we know UNF expects of us,” van Luling said. “We terminated their contract and brought on another contractor who is giving us a far superior product, and as a result, we’re back on schedule.”

Sawyer doesn’t believe Quality Concrete is to blame for the lack of adherence to schedule.

“When you’re a subcontractor, you follow the lead of the general contractors. We really shouldn’t be behind if the general is doing everything they’re supposed to be doing,” Sawyer said.

Van Luling had no further comment regarding Sawyer’s statements.

While who is at fault for the schedule backup has yet to be determined, Jim’s Concrete is firing on all cylinders.

“They’re stepping up. … They’re working 10-hour days, six days a week to help us get back on schedule,” van Luling said.

According to Gilbane, Ospreys won’t have to clutch their checkbooks for this incident.

“If there should be any additional cost, we’re pursuing it through the bonding company. There will be no cost to UNF at all,” van Luling said.

While the financial aspect of this development won’t affect students, timing may. Schedule delays are a recurring theme for the Student Wellness Center. Its original February 2012 opening was pushed back to May 2012 due to issues with construction documents and conflicts in bidding.

The latest report has the Wellness Center ready May 31, at the close of Phase One construction. At its opening, the center will feature three spinning/aerobics rooms, exercise machines and free weights, recreation, physical counseling and administrative offices, showers, locker rooms, a juice bar, a climbing wall and, on the third floor, a running track.

Phase Two construction will be completed as funds become available. Its developments include basketball and volleyball courts, physical education classrooms and a 1/8 mile extension to the running track.

Ovadia believes student fees may not be enough to cover the cost of Phase Two, and “it may depend on the state putting in some money.”

Some students feel this nudging of deadlines stilted them, however.

“It makes me mad because I’m graduating in December,” said Victoria Troupe, a UNF senior. “My fees go toward building this whole thing, and I’m never going to get to benefit from it.”

Fitness-conscious Ospreys can only hope funding doesn’t prove itself an insurmountable or time-consuming obstacle.