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More Than a Hole in the Ground

Construction of Aztec Student Union progresses to the six-month mark and will soon go vertical.
A day of construction on the Aztec Student Union winds down.
A day of construction on the Aztec Student Union winds down.

As the fall semester winds down, construction of Aztec Student Union makes considerable headway on the LEED Platinum-certified “campus living room.”

“You may not notice it, but critical work is getting done,” said Associated Students President Cody Barbo.  “Sure, it looks like just a big hole in the ground, but the essential underground utilities are being put in place.  The seeds are being planted and the crop is just about ready to grow.”

The three-story Aztec Student Union will rise above the College Avenue pedestrian bridge soon, with demolition and underground utility work the current focus of the $104 million venture.  Much has been accomplished in six months of construction, and the pace will soon pick up.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held June 1 and demolition of Aztec Center began June 13, with the final piece of the main building crashing down on Aug. 8. 

Below the surface

Underground utility work began after demolition, with old pipes for sewage, steam and chilled water for air conditioning, relocated because of the Aztec Student Union’s larger footprint, which is more than twice the size of Aztec Center.

The northwest and northeast sections of the sewer pipe were the first to be relocated.  That was followed by the chilled water pipe relocation finished in September.  Pipes for the northwest section of the steam tunnel were installed Nov. 17, and the trench is expected to be filled within the next few weeks.  Work on the northeast section of the steam tunnel commenced Oct. 31, and piping is scheduled to go in next week.

The grading operation, which includes over-excavating and recompacting all of the dirt, started Oct. 25 and will take a few weeks.  The process was stalled three times by rain, including storms during the two weekends prior to Thanksgiving.

“The underground utility work has proved somewhat complicated with old piping, undocumented piping and the configuration of new piping that lay close to nearby buildings,” said Sundt Project Manager Jamie Frye. “But we have a good handle on it and should see vertical progress soon.”

What lies ahead

This week, the construction team will demolish the south wall of the old main building. Grading of the basement area will resume following weeks of weather-related delays.  Once the grading is complete, workers will drill for the first elevator pit and the first concrete pour could take place before the end of the year.

The northwest and northeast sections of the steam tunnel will also wrap up in a few weeks.  Once the steam piping is completed, removal of the old steam piping and old sewer lines will commence.

LEEDing the way

About 98 percent of Aztec Center has been recycled, a total that doesn’t include the concrete from the south wall of the main building. More than 13,700 tons of concrete was taken to a staging area in Lot W, where it was crushed and will soon be re-used for to refill excavated areas in Aztec Student Union. Overall, 30,372,802 pounds of Aztec Center materials have been recycled with 500,340 pounds disposed.

The recycling effort is a significant portion of the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design point scale. There are 110 possible points on the checklist, 14 of which can come from recycling and waste management measures.  

To achieve the highest rating of LEED Platinum certification, a project needs at least 80 points.  With only six months into the project, Aztec Student Union is on target to attain that status due to recycling of Aztec Center materials.

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