Printing House Square, Trinity’s new accommodation complex, is projected to open in spring 2021, having been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and contracting issues – after a slew of setbacks spanning more than a year.
The building was most recently forecast to open in July 2020, but Ireland’s national lockdown meant that construction had to be halted for several months.
It is hoped that the building will be ready to house students by the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year.
In an email statement to The University Times, Trinity’s Dean of Students Kevin O’Kelly said: “The project is indeed running late, due both to Covid and the contractor’s difficulties on a number of fronts.”
“However”, O’Kelly wrote, “there are no legal issues between Trinity and the contractor. There are normal claims from both sides (as is typical of all projects) and these are being dealt with through the normal contractual mechanisms.”
“These procedures have no bearing on the progress, indeed the contract requires the builder to proceed with normal progress during any claims resolution process.”
Thomas Deane, a Trinity media relations officer, wrote in an email statement to The University Times that “at this point the contractors are anticipating a completion date sometime in spring next year”.
“We are hopeful of having Printing House Square available for the 2021/2022 academic year, although the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 inevitably introduces some continued uncertainty on the rate of work”, Deane said.
The Printing House Square project has been dogged by controversy since mid-2019, when the Dublin Inquirer reported on the pay issues faced by apprentice plumbers working for GMG Mechanical, one of the companies subcontracted by main contractor Bennett Construction Limited.
The University Times subsequently revealed that some 30 workers were being illegally underpaid on the site.
When planning permission was granted for the build, it was projected to be completed in 2018. But a number of setbacks created by An Taisce and An Bord Pleanála held up the complex, with An Bord Pleanála arguing that the construction could compromise the existing aesthetic of Dublin city centre.
When these issues were eventually resolved, the project was then given a revised completion date of August 1st, 2019, in time to house students for the 2019/20 academic year.
At the beginning of July 2019, the project was nine per cent behind schedule.
Internal College Board documents, obtained by this newspaper, showed that just 48.86 per cent of the 250-bed complex was finished on August 30th, far short of the 66.16 per cent of the project that Trinity planned to have finished by the same point.
In April this year, College said that due to the pandemic, it was “very unlikely” that the new completion date of July 2020 would be met.
As well as housing students, Printing House Square will provide a new home for the College Health and Disability Service.
The building will also house squash and racquetball courts and a renovated rifle range, as well as ergonomically sound seminar rooms. The student apartments will be arranged in groups of six ensuite rooms, all connected to a communal kitchen space.