Bob Rawski

Construction contractors work near the Cockrell School of Engineering Thursday afternoon. A UT student reportedly disrupted a nearby construction site last Friday. 



Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

A UT student reportedly stole items from a construction site last week near the Cockrell School of Engineering. According to UTPD’s Campus Watch report, construction workers said the student ran through the site Friday and UTPD officers found a construction truck that had been disturbed. UTPD discovered the student blocks away with items believed to be from the truck.

Despite incidents like this one — which is still under investigation — the University routinely takes precautions to secure construction sites on campus.

The UT System Office of Facilities Planning and Construction oversees construction sites on campus. OFPC director Bob Rawski said most major construction projects are contracted by outside companies, which are responsible for enforcing safety and security requirements at their construction sites. 

“Our construction contractors by contract have care, custody and control of their construction sites,” Rawski said. “They are required to erect a fence around the entire perimeter of the site with locking gates and to monitor access into and out of the site.”

Despite incidents like the one at the site, Rawski said thefts are not common at construction sites on campus. 

“Our contractors have experienced some occasional thefts from their construction sites, but this has not been a pervasive problem,” Rawski said. 

According to Rawski, there are currently seven OFPC-managed major capital construction projects under construction at the University. Most of these projects are contracted by companies such as Hensel Phelps, which has worked on the San Jacinto Residence Hall, the Frank Erwin Center, and is currently involved in building the Dell Medical School. Hensel Phelps is also in charge of the construction site near the Chemical Petroleum Engineering Building, where the theft took place. 

Rawski said whether a project is contracted by an outside company depends on the project’s size and the construction techniques needed. 

“Major capital construction projects managed by OFPC are contracted through outside construction companies,” Rawski said. “Minor projects managed by campus groups, such as Project Management and Construction Services, may be done by outside contractors or by internal construction groups, depending on the size and nature of the work.”

UTPD spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said UTPD regularly patrols campus construction sites to try and prevent thefts.

“In general, the construction sites are University property and are part of UTPD’s regularly scheduled patrols,” Weldon said. “If criminal activity is witnessed or reported, UTPD responds and investigates as appropriate.”

The incident last Friday is still under investigation.

A student inspects construction on the Jesse H Jones Communication Center sixth floor Monday afternoon. Parts of the sixth and fourth floors are scheduled for renovation through August 20th.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

The Jesse H. Jones Communication Center’s (CMA) appearance is changing, with renovations that will make its interior resemble The Belo Center for New Media across the street. 

Renovations on the sixth and seventh floors have already been completed, and construction is now in progress on the north side of the fourth floor and south side of the sixth floor. Bob Rawski, regional program manager for the UT system, said when the College of Communication’s new building, the Belo Center, was installed, it was understood that other communications buildings like the CMA would have to be renovated. The renovations will cost $7 million dollars.

“We’re taking existing office space that hasn’t been upgraded since the building was constructed,” Rawski said.

Rawski said while the renovations are taking place, UT will also take the opportunity to do maintenance on the building’s air conditioning system, which is expected to fail due to age, and its wiring system. Rawski said the maintenance upgrades, which will cost $3.95 million, should pay themselves back quickly because of the increased efficiency of newer air conditioning units. Construction crews have installed temporary units to continue heating and cooling while the new system is installed.

Though the construction is intended to improve the building, students and staff on the floors under construction said the noise and activity can be disruptive.

“There’s a lot of banging,” journalism graduate student Grace Sherry, a teaching assistant with a discussion section on the fourth floor, said. “I either have to yell, literally scream or wait for it to stop.”

Lisa Bedore, a communications professor affected by the construction, also said she found it disruptive. However, she said the construction crews seem to have reduced their noise levels.

“As annoying as it is, I think they’re doing a better job of taking us into account,” Bedore said.

Rawski said he and the project’s other managers attempt to schedule the noisiest work for off-peak periods.

“In this particular project we had too much work to do just over the break periods,” Rawski said. “[But] we’ve been doing a lot of the noisiest work nights and weekends.”

Renovations on the CMA are scheduled to finish Aug. 20.

Published on February 6, 2013 as "CMA renovations progress, mirror Belo's modern look". 

Construction has left campus walkways and entire floors of the Flawn Academic Center blocked off since summer 2009, and officials say the disruptions will not end until next July.

A construction crew is in the process of upgrading fire alarm and communication systems, as well as renovating the third and fourth floors to make room for new office space.

Between 25 and 40 construction workers are on site five days a week and at night to minimize noise and disruptions, said Bob Rawski, regional program manager for the UT System. He said there were some fire and safety improvements that they needed to make to bring the building up to code.

“The fire sprinklers, for instance, really dramatically improve the building for the occupants,” he said. “That was one of the drivers of the project and the other was to renovate those floors to make them more efficient
for use.”

According to the University’s construction advisory website, the project was initially slotted for completion in winter 2011.

The FAC is one of several buildings undergoing construction as part of an overall plan to update and improve the UT campus.

Rawski said much of the renovated space will be used to house several new vice presidents’ offices.

Patricia Clubb, vice president for University Operations, said factors such as school needs, faculty recruitment and student population are all taken into account to determine the timing of construction.

“Big capital projects take years to materialize,” she said. “Everything gets factored in so there’s no one thing that will put one project in front of another one.”

Clubb said small projects all over campus, such as the Tower, the communication, liberal arts and Hackerman buildings and the stadium are all individually funded.

“Every project has a funding profile, and there can be many different sources of funding that go into one project and each of them is built,” Clubb said.

The $22 million total cost for the FAC renovations came from three different sources, said Daniel Tovar, project manager for the FAC construction site. He said $20 million of the project’s funding came from interest on local funds and money distributed to the University but not designated for educational use.

The third floor of the FAC recently reopened to the public, but construction continues with renovation on the fourth floor.