By Evan Ritscher
Beginning at 8 a.m. every Monday through Saturday, many GW students are awoken by a sound that can be heard across half of campus. The noise emanates from a construction site on H Street N.W., between 22nd and 23rd streets, one of many sites across campus.
The construction site will be the home of the university’s new science and engineering hall, but right now it looks like anything but an academic building.
The area, which encompasses almost an entire square block, is currently just a deep hole in the ground containing construction equipment including about 10 bulldozers, excavators, large jackhammers, and a large crane. The giant machines that currently occupy the city street represent the dirty part of the process of change and improvement the university is currently undergoing.
GW’s Board of Trustees approved the project in 2010 after a year of planning and design. Construction began in the summer of 2011 and is scheduled for completion by January 2015.
Along with the construction of the science and engineering hall, GW is renovating Gelman Library and Ross Hall; constructing a new School of Health and Health Services building; reconstructing GW-owned properties along Pennsylvania Avenue; and constructing a new GW Museum, garage, and program space for the law school.
For university administrators, the construction, particularly that of the science and engineering hall, will further advance the school’s image as a leader in research and will also bring leaders in science to the university.
“The science and engineering hall will be that anchor that brings people into our community,” Steven Lerman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said in a video discussing the project. “GW can be a convening place; it will bring people from all over the world into our community.”
Peg Barratt, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, also said GW “will be the hub for what is a world science center around the greater D.C. area.”
Still, the work is far from over and the school is currently in the middle of the noisy, dirty and disruptive stage of its improvement plans.
“I don’t think a day has gone by without the noise in someway disrupting me, either while I’m asleep or when I’m trying to work,” Luke Austing, a Fulbright Hall resident, said.
Brian Shear, another Fulbright resident, said he understands the work is ultimately good for the university, but wishes the school would do more to minimize impacts on current students.
In late August, GW Housing sent out an email to the residents of Fulbright, JBKO, Madison, and Munson halls saying the university was working to reduce “exceptionally noisy” activities in the early morning. The email also said the university provides free earplugs and loans white noise machines to students affected by the noise.
Regardless of the noise, the university believes the construction furthers the university’s goal of transforming GW into a hub for academic research and discussion, and the construction will continue as the university moves towards expansion.
For current students, the noise seems to be something they will just have to live with.