Construction continues at UNL, despite COVID

The pandemic has created some issues, but hundreds of projects continue.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Even with all the problems created by the pandemic, you can’t keep construction down at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, or at the rest of the University of Nebraska System, for that matter.

Ryan Swanson is Associate Vice President for Facilities, Planning, and Capital Construction. His office oversees the nearly 300 projects going on across the state. He says, “By the time you see something come out of the ground, we’ve typically been working that project for a couple years.”

Stick around Vine Street on campus, and you’ll not only see things out of the ground, but you’ll also see things almost finished, ready to take their permanent place on campus.

Swanson says that while oftentimes people talk about erecting “50-year buildings”, the university philosophy is to create something a bit more substantial. “We build buildings that will last the test of time”, Swanson says. Those buildings “last longer than your typical commercial building or residential building because we’re going to be here a lot longer.”

Of course, that limits their building materials to high-quality components when we’re already experiencing a limited supply of just about everything. That isn’t an insurmountable problem, however.

“Certain materials are hard to get: certain roofing materials, it can be paint”, admits Swanson. “For us, it’s not the day that you go out and try to find something. It’s usually six, eight, nine months ahead of time.”

That planning is what allows the university construction team to continue as scheduled. “I think that’s the main thing”, says Swanson.

What remains a problem, though, is labor.

“We have the lowest unemployment in the nation, which is a good thing. It is difficult when you’re trying to do projects and find folks to ramp up into things”, Swanson says.

Still, hundreds of projects are being worked on each day, and some are approaching completion, even as soon as the summer. No matter what you throw at a system this large, it just seems to keep moving.

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