Art by Michael Lotsaris.
A fire caused by a lit cigarette butt is the latest in a range of setbacks that have delayed the opening of the University’s new business school by almost seven months.
An investigation into the fire, which ripped though parts of the new business school building site in June, stopped short of identifying the individual responsible but did serve as a reminder that smoking near flammable material on an active construction site is a bad idea.
What is clear is that the fire was sparked by a cigarette butt discarded in a bin on a balcony of the building in the early hours of June 25 following a late night smoko. The subsequent fire caused extensive damage to an area of the building’s façade, several fourth-floor offices, as well as smoke and water damage to teaching spaces on the third floor.
Ironically, the fire comes as it was revealed that the University has been investing in tobacco companies in “emerging markets” (see page 4), in spite of university policy prohibiting direct investments in tobacco. It seems karma has a conscience.
“The investigations by authorities could not identify either an individual or a subcontractor responsible for smoking on the balcony where the bin was located,” a university spokesperson told Honi.
The new Business School, overseen by the John Holland Group, is part of the $180 million Abercrombie Precinct development on the Darlington campus. The project began in 2013, and when announced the then co-dean of the business school, now Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Tyrone Carlin, called the business school “probably… the largest single increase in new teaching space over the last two or three decades.”
The university spokesperson said that while the project was running behind schedule, the damage caused by the fire had no bearing on overall delays.
“There are delays because of the fire but only to the areas affected,” they said.
They gave no suggestion about what had contributed to such significant delays, but did point out that the cost of the project has not been impacted by the fire as it was covered by the site’s insurance.
While the business school had been slated to open for classes in semester two of 2015, it will now be handed over to the university in October, opening fully for semester one 2016. It is one of the early stages of a major university development binge, slated to revitalise the campus.
In the meantime, ashtrays have been provided on-site as a precaution.