Contracted Construction Company Embraces Sustainability at SU

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Contracted Construction Company Embraces Sustainability at SU

TARYN OKAMOTO • THE SPECTATOR

TARYN OKAMOTO • THE SPECTATOR

TARYN OKAMOTO • THE SPECTATOR

TARYN OKAMOTO • THE SPECTATOR

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Seattle University has chosen Skanska as the general contractor handle to demolition the University Services Building and later build a new science building in its place. The building will be a hub for computer science, chemistry, and biology, given the extremely quick growth of science programs in recent years.

Terri-Ann Betancourt, the director of communications for the West Coast for Skanska, mentioned how their values are very much in line with Seattle U’s.

TARYN OKAMOTO • THE SPECTATOR
TARYN OKAMOTO • THE SPECTATOR

“Skanska is a construction company based in Sweden who pride themselves in being eco-friendly and are greatly concerned with the safety of their workers,” Betancourt said.

Sustainability is one of the main focuses Skanska has when constructing new buildings. Skanska cares for the communities they effect, as their lives will hopefully be improved by whatever Skanska builds.

It was a long process until Seattle U eventually settled on Skanska as the company for the job. Around ten firms were initially contacted about the job. Out of the few that were up to the challenge, only three came for extended interviews.

One of construction companies that was being considered was Howard S. Wright. However, the controversy surrounding this firm was a red flag for the university.

Howard S. Wright was contracted by Capstone to build the school’s new Vi Hilbert Hall. Many students and community members were uncomfortable with the fact that the company being used for Seattle U’s new dorm had recently constructed the nearby youth detention facility.

Many members of the community do not condone the construction of such a building at all. Having Howard S. Wright construct a building on campus for students so soon after the groundbreaking at the youth detention facility has been a point of controversy brought up most  recently by the “SU on Trial” activism group, as well as a common thread of conversation among activist circles in Capitol Hill and Central District..

It was not Seattle U’s choice to use Howard S. Wright, rather it was the decision of Capstone Development, a third-party contractor hired for Vi Hilbert Hall. Their presence on campus, however, was upsetting for many. Associate Vice President of Finance Andrew O’Boyle mentioned how the opinions of the community were too important to ignore.

“The topic was discussed at SGSU’s budget transparency forum where it became apparent to us officials that choosing this firm could be an issue” O’Boyle said.

With Howard S. Wright off the table, O’Boyle said it soon became apparent that Skanska was the firm for the job due to their  lasting impression during their initial visit to campus.

“Their team was very in tune with their mission. They clearly researched Seattle University and were very perceptive of the campus,” O’Boyle said.

The committee that visited campus was large and careful. They were not afraid to point out which of Seattle U’s own buildings were done well, and which ones had issues.

Skanska had also previously worked with Seattle University for the construction of the school’s Chapel of St. Ignatius. This was an important deciding factor for officials as Skanska was already familiar with Seattle U and its’ values.  

Seattle University has recently been very concerned with sustainability. To ensure the school’s new buildings have lived up to the school’s expectations, they have been put to the test against the LEED certification program.

“Over the past few years, all buildings constructed at Seattle U have been held up to LEED Gold standard” O’Boyle said.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, and it is an internationally recognized green building certification system. All buildings recently built at Seattle U have been held to the gold standard; one of the highest standings a building can receive under this certification.

The building that Skanska will construct is no exception. This LEED gold certified building not only needed an eco-friendly design, but also needed to keep up with the many different needs of the growing population of science students.

“The new building will have many facilities for science students, including labs, classrooms, and meeting rooms,” O’Boyle said.

Lara Branigan, director of design and construction at Seattle U, notes that the building process could take a long time.

“The permit is still under review for the University Services Building demolition,” Branigan said.

The demolition will take place between May and June before construction on the new building can take place.  The construction is expected to finish fall 2021 where it will then open its doors to students, allowing for an eco-friendly learning environment to act as inspiration for those part of the science program.

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