Multimillion-dollar makeover for student hall

University of Otago hall of residence Hayward College, on Frederick St, is undergoing a 12-week...
University of Otago hall of residence Hayward College, on Frederick St, is undergoing a 12-week makeover.
Up to 140 people are working on the refurbishment of Hayward at any one time.
Up to 140 people are working on the refurbishment of Hayward at any one time.
Although it is the holidays, the kitchen at Hayward College is still open, serving  a subsidised...
Although it is the holidays, the kitchen at Hayward College is still open, serving a subsidised lunch to hungry workers.
A view of the new stairwell.
A view of the new stairwell.
Project manager Tony Burton explains progress on the refurbishment.
Project manager Tony Burton explains progress on the refurbishment.
In the roof space, construction workers found various items, including letters of advice from...
In the roof space, construction workers found various items, including letters of advice from residents to fellow students.
The view from one of the new rooms on the top floor of Hayward College.
The view from one of the new rooms on the top floor of Hayward College.

It’s not often outsiders get a glimpse of the bare bones of a student residential hall.  Reporter Elena McPhee and photographer Christine O’Connor were given a tour of Hayward College this week as extensive renovations continue. 

Several weeks of university holidays remain, but Hayward College, the site of the old Queen Mary Hospital in Dunedin, is a hive of activity.

About $11 million worth of work is being crammed into 12 weeks, including adding  14 new rooms, seismic strengthening and refurbishment, installing a new sprinkler system and passive fire protection, and increasing the size of the dining area. Although they admit it is no mean feat, the people in charge of major upgrades to the University of Otago hall of residence are confident everything will be finished in time for when students return in mid-February. The top floor of the building was already taking shape earlier this week, as rooms had been painted, spruced up and ready for new furniture, and a new bright blue kitchen put in.

Project manager Tony Burton, of main contractor Logic Group, said workers were on site from 6am to 10pm. Two different shifts came in every day, seven days a week.

Mr Burton said while he had overseen projects of this size before, they never had to be completed in such a short timeframe. The time pressure added "a fair bit of stress" but so far things had been going smoothly and all  the contractors had been great to work with.

"The buy-in from local contractors has been huge."

On any day there could be up to 140 people working on site, and he estimated in total 200 people were involved, including university staff and architects.

Workers had been going flatstick seven days a week since mid-November — and aside from Christmas and Boxing Days, and New Year’s Day,  work had continued  every day.

Workers on site got into the holiday spirit over the Christmas and New Year period, having a special lunch, a raffle, and an exchange of presents — and the kitchen, which was modern and did not need much work, was being kept open for lunch every day. Business development manager Julie Perkins said it was interesting discovering items students had left  behind the ceiling tiles — including about 48 empty beer bottles which poured out of the ceiling space in one student’s room, fortunately missing the person who found them, and in one case a letter containing advice for the next resident to live in the room. It advised him "not to be that guy that studies too hard", Ms Perkins said. 

The "bits and pieces" discovered had been handed back to the university. All non-structural internal walls were removed in the redevelopment, and the number of bedrooms was increased to 176,  from 162. The dining area was also one and a-half times bigger now. Logic Group and the university had broken the work into packages and tenders before calling for tenders, and the people working on the building had changed to some extent as the work took shape. Students were due to move in in time for Orientation Week starting on February 16, and work on the renovation would continue right up until the 15th. Every floor had an accessible room, new bathrooms, and the quality of the bedrooms was generally much better than it had been, for instance with more insulation, and acoustic tiles.

About 500 tonnes of demolition waste, and 20 tonnes of reclaimable timber were removed from the building. The building had a lot of features making it more accessible than it had been before — for instance, in addition to the accessible rooms, a ramp was added to the entranceway, rather than students with disabilities having to go around the side. The outside of the hall would also be spruced up.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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