Unexpected rock shelf sets Olin Library construction back

| News Editor

Due to complications in the excavation phase of the project, the Olin Library expansion will be extended an entire semester and is on track to be finished for the spring 2018 semester.

The project faced setbacks this week when construction crews discovered a layer of rock 19-feet-below ground—eight feet above the proposed final excavation depth of 27 feet. Because the rock’s excavation requires an extensive removal process, the team had no choice but to reevaluate the project’s timeline.

Despite the obstacle, the overall plan for the finished expansion will only be slightly altered. A modest amount of extra storage space will be made available because of the revised version, which will cost an additional $2.85 million before labor costs, bringing the project total to over $20.85 million.

According to Facilities Project Manager Brian Newman, a combination of factors made foreseeing the issue impossible.

“The rock shelf and the depth of the existing structural piers wasn’t shown accurately in the 50-year-old documents we did have,” Newman said. “We also, in the last nine months or so, did a fair amount of preliminary boring to determine what the depth of rock is. We did maybe a dozen or more test bores around the perimeter of the building. However, we couldn’t bore in Whispers, because it was open and operational, and we would have had to take it offline and bring in a rig, which would have been complicated, time-consuming and messy.”

In order to cope with the extended construction schedule, the library plans to continue its current accommodations throughout the extra semester.

“We’re going to extend all of the things that we have already decided,” Manager of Library User Space Planning & Campus Liaison Sarah Laaker said. “So we had originally said that Olin proper, the entire library, would be open 24/7 this semester and next semester. That will definitely extend that into the fall semester of 2017, since construction will still be going on.”

Sophomore Sthitadhi Chakraborty said he was frustrated with the news, but realized there’s not much the University can do.

“I really liked having Whispers freshman year, and the fact that it’s now going to be unavailable for nearly half my time here is really pretty annoying,” he said. “However, I do also understand that they can’t really do anything about that, so I understand.”

Despite the setback, Laaker remains optimistic about the project.

“I’m really glad that we can still move forward with the full program,” she said. “That’s awesome, and in terms of the student experience, despite that extra semester of Whispers being closed, I think it’ll be worth it.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.