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The human side of construction

Group develops support network for those affected by rebuilding

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
Posted April 26, 2000

Construction on campus does more than change the face or structure of a building.

Disruptions associated with construction -- such as noise, limited access and displacement -- can impact the physical and emotional well being of faculty, staff and students.

"People may experience heightened irritability or may have difficulty concentrating on their work," said Steve Lustig, executive director of University Health Services. "Lack of information about what is happening can exacerbate these symptoms."

To address these issues, representatives from Capital Projects, Environmental Health and Safety, Human Resources, Staff Ombuds Office and University Health Services have formed a health and construction committee.

"One of our objectives is to create an inter-unit response team that will develop suggestions and guidelines for departments affected by construction," said Lustig, a member of the group. "We will also focus on identifying preventative actions and interventions that can be taken to minimize the health impact of construction."

Some of these actions are already being implemented by Capital Projects, said Christine Shaff, communications manager for the unit.

"We are creating departmental work groups early in the planning stages of construction to increase communication, anticipate issues and resolve problems," she said. "We are also working to keep people informed of construction schedules and key activities, consider the impact on staff in neighboring buildings, post signs with information, and assure access for those with disabilities."

The group is developing policies on who should receive complaints and concerns and how they will be addressed; ways to improve communication between project managers and department contacts; protocol for determining when working conditions have become difficult; and training for managers and supervisors on supporting their staff during construction, such as using flexible scheduling.

The group, said Lustig, is interested in having health issues play a central role in the construction, planning and design of new buildings.

In addition to meeting health and safety codes, he said, new buildings could include such features as ergonomic interior design, showers to accommodate employees who exercise, lactation rooms, community spaces that promote social health and child care centers.

"Our goal is to make this group of key cross-unit players to become an integral part of the construction, relocation and renovation process," said Lustig. "Members of the group will regularly compare notes on what's working and what isn't so we can generate ideas for addressing immediate issues while applying what we've learned to future projects."

For information on the committee, call 642-6621.



April 26 - May 3, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 30)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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