Discovery of remains slows construction project at UNR |

Discovery of remains slows construction project at UNR

Rob Sabo

Construction of a new dormitory and classroom space at University of Nevada, Reno was slightly delayed this winter when excavation crews unearthed the remains of eight people.

But the eight-day delay provided real-world experience for anthropology students.

Atlas Contractors came across the remains as it excavated up to 23 feet of dirt in some areas of a former parking lot at Virginia Street and College Drive to prepare the foundation of the new 124,000-square-foot UNR Learning Living Community. The center will provide housing for about 300 students and has classroom space on the ground floor topped by four floors of dormitories.

The remains, which have been transferred to Walton Funeral Home for re-interment at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Cemetery on North Virginia Street, provided first-hand field experience for the anthropology department at UNR. Drs. Carolyn White and Richard Scott led a team of graduate students who worked with tradesmen to exhume the remains.

“It was just absolutely incredible,” says Lyle Woodward, director of facilities services for UNR. “They had classroom experience, and out in the field they learned exactly what anthropology students need to do, but it was part of a live construction project with heavy equipment operating right around them.”

Andy Ramirez, vice president and operations manager of general contractor West Coast Contractors, says it’s not the first time his company has encountered a similar situation, but never eight corpses in all.

“It is not like the movies these boxes had been in there 100 years,” Ramirez says. “An average person probably wouldn’t know what they were looking at, but once you got in there you could tell what it was.

“The first thing I thought is that we are going to lose some time on this you have to call the coroner, and you have to get people involved. You can’t just keep going,” Ramirez adds.

Total project budget for the Living Learning Community is $36 million, with a construction contract of just over $26.6 million, Woodward says. The concept of classroom and dormitory space is new at UNR and is designed to promote more collaboration between first-year students, many of whom will take classes and share living quarters at the new center.

The site’s small footprint, which offers little room for setup of cranes or staging of materials, presents the biggest construction challenge to West Coast Contractors. Materials must be set as they arrive.

“When it comes in a truck, it needs to go where it is going to live,” Ramirez says.

Once the foundation is built, crews will construct walls and use a total of 479 pre-cast concrete planks that double as the structural flooring and ceiling. The planks are fabricated by pre-cast concrete specialist Kie-Con of Antioch, Calif.

West Coast Contractors employs five on the site and has hired dozens of local subcontractors, including Tedesco Pacific Construction, Scott Meek and Son Concrete, Martin Iron Works, J&J Mechanical, Garner Engineering & Mechanical Services and Nelson Electric Company.

A job of this size and scope in Reno provides welcome paychecks to the tradesmen involved in the project, Ramirez says.

“Getting this job was a big deal for us. It is a big job, and it is in town, and those two things are not happening right now,” he says. “To be able to have a $26 million job five miles from my office is a very good thing.”

The university will seek Silver Certification for the center from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program through the extensive recycling of materials used during construction, as well as installation of energy-efficient boilers, lighting and control systems.


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