What’s new on Campus – A story of Building on History, Art and Education

So what’s new On-Campus despite lockdown?
Although schools and tertiary institutions are physically closed due to the current Covid 19 Pandemic, construction which both began and paused earlier this year now resumes with the Pacific Building Solutions team being awarded the refurbishment works at The University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus in Suva, Fiji.

“We are proud to engage in this project. For us, in a small way, we feel we are not only helping in rebuilding a prestigious academic institution but also, what is home to many of our Pacific Island Nations’ youths and future leaders. This being the week of “International Youth Day” makes it all the more meaningful to us” PBS Operations & Constructions Manager, Romit Dass cheerfully explains.

An interesting fact about The University of the South Pacific is that it is the only other university of its type in the world! What it means is, that it is jointly owned by The Governments of 12 Island countries in the region; these include Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Western Samoa. The other university being University of West Indies in the Caribbean.

“We’re currently working with a portion of a USP building that was given to USP by the New Zealand Air Force in 1968 which is the same year it was established, Romit keenly explains.  This particular building was part of their World War II Army Base,” He tells me this knowing it will pique my interest to wander through the old wooden structure, finding doors and hidden passageways and admire its colonial and artful décor which I did so intently, and forgot for a brief moment that we were in an interview.

For a history fanatic like myself, I was lucky to receive such a tour, and with every step I took, I could feel the years of history and culture come alive. It is no wonder that this building turns out to be the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies; it oozes  creativity and inspiration. Romit and the team are always excited when they get to work on projects with deep history and culture associated with them.

The University of the South Pacific houses 8 different schools in both academia and the arts and is home to around 30,000 students, of which, approximately 17,000 are undergraduates and around 3,000 postgraduate students. Since earlier this year, the school was forced to close the doors to its lecture halls and dormitories to keep its students safe. However, they have kept spirits high by using this time to re-build and re-furbish buildings where needed while continuing studies online.

The scope of works undertaken by the PBS team included; floor replacement in the Oceania Arts Centre covering 330m2; replacement of roofing sheets, including changing of gutters rig cap; roofing screws and painting of the roof; electrical and plumbing works, external and internal painting of the buildings as well as refurbishing of the washrooms.

According to the team, what was planned to be a 52-day project has extended slightly longer as abiding with the COVID 19 SOP’s required the team to decrease the size of their manpower from 23 to now 12 people on-site at a time. However, since the National Lockdown was implemented on April 26th, the project was only able to resume on 2nd August this year with a new completion date set for 6th September 2021. Despite these setbacks, the team is happy to report that 80 per cent of the project is now completed and that reaching the target date looks optimistic.

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