COVID-19 impacts construction projects, campus and facilities maintenance

Nataleah Small

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Construction projects, facilities and campus maintenance operations have been slowed or halted by the city of Austin and Travis County’s stay-at-home orders, according to University representatives. 

Although the campus shut down due to concerns about COVID-19, UT Facilities Services supports those buildings where campus units have determined that essential functions are taking place, Darren Hale, director of facilities services, said in an email.

“The University has moved to an online model; however, some essential operations remain active on campus,” Hale said.

While contracted construction projects are still taking place on campus, renovation projects in occupied buildings have been put on hold because of campus closures, Michael Carmagnola, director of project management and construction services, said in an email.  

According to the Capital Planning and Construction website, projects that are currently taking place on campus include the Darrell K Royal Texas-Memorial Stadium South End Zone Addition, the Moody Center Enabling Utilities and the Red River Street Realignment. 

University project management, construction and inspection staff are also taking steps to continue contracted renovation projects, such as the Anna Hiss Gymnasium Renovation, by implementing COVID-19 safety protocols, Carmagnola said. 

“All contractors working on construction projects on campus have implemented COVID-19 protocols on their respective construction sites,” Carmagnola said. 

Safety protocols are outlined in the campus safety document “Pandemic: COVID-19 Essential Maintenance/Utilities Guidance,” which is found on the UT Environmental Health and Safety website. According to the document, protocols include maintaining 6 feet of distance between coworkers, disinfecting shared tools and equipment before and after each use, and reporting contact with foreign bodily fluids.

Campus and landscape maintenance teams are providing limited services on campus such as trash cleaning and plant leaf removal, according to the Facilities Services website. Hale said Facilities Services is operating under the Stay at Home – Work Safe Order implemented by the city of Austin and Travis County.

“In compliance with the order, we are only providing limited on-campus services in support of essential operational functions; however, there are also staff working remotely,” Hale said. “On-site staff are following social distancing guidelines as well as taking other preventive measures.”

Regarding campus operations, Hale said facilities services will follow university guidelines. He said operations such as street sweeping and campus cleaning only take place a few times per week. 

“We clean (excessive leaves and monitor trash on the grounds) twice per week, six hours per day,” Hale said. “Street sweeping occurs twice per week, seven hours per day.” 

According to the Facilities Services website, on-campus technicians will provide maintenance emergency services regarding electrical, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing issues. Hale said these services will be provided based on request. 

“Operators will continue to provide around-the-clock monitoring of Building Automation Systems and critical alarms on campus from the centralized Operations Center,” according to the Facilities Services website.

This story was edited to clarify UT Facilities Services operations. The Texan regrets this error.