Landscaping project’s stink frustrates Gage residents

Students living in Walter Gage Residence are complaining about an ongoing landscaping project at the base of the tower — especially its smell.

The project, which began in September and was originally slated to end earlier this month, recently laid a mixture of manure and soil for plants on the outside of the residence.

While smell might seem like a marginal inconvenience compared to other construction byproducts like noise, residents said it is impacting their tenancy experience.

“I can’t sleep with my windows open nowadays because of the smell,” said third-year commerce student Matthew Newland.

Newland said the scent is one of many annoyances that construction is creating for tenants— others being restricted building access, noise in the early morning and sheer construction fatigue.

“I’m getting quite frustrated with Gage and UBC in general — construction is becoming a real nuisance all over campus and it never seems to stop,” said Newland in a written statement to The Ubyssey.

“It’s still frustrating that decisions are made with no consideration for the comfort of residents.”

On September 2, UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS) distributed a notice about the planned construction, advising tenants to expect noise and potential obstructions to the building’s front entrance access, especially in the front-end of the project. The smell wasn’t mentioned because the issue is usually short-term and much less severe.

Andrew Parr, managing director of SHHS, said he sympathizes with student concerns, but emphasized that laying new soil was an important — if not pleasant — part of the project.

“I’m empathetic to the smell, particularly if it’s in close quarters to where you live,” said Parr.

“I guess the smell of good quality soil that plants thrive in does come with a bit of an odour.”

According to him, the manure-laying stage of landscaping projects usually comes at the end of construction. Since it’s common for construction projects to be extended — and because UBC uses independent contractors for its projects — it’s challenging to communicate when specific processes are taking place.

“As things change, we communicate that,” said Parr. “But small phases of the project that have a limited or short term impact — we don’t communicate all of those details.”

He also noted that the odour from new soil typically dissipates “after 48 hours or so.”

However, Gage residents stated that the smell has been recurring for the past few weeks in alternating intensities.

“The smell has been off and on all semester,” said Newland. “It went away eventually, but it returned in the back courtyard sometime last week.”

While Parr acknowledged that the construction at Gage might have affected tenant’s experiences in the first semester, he emphasized that they would be the first to benefit once the project is completed next month.

“Timing of conscription projects is never good on campus,” said Parr. “It’s our job to make the disruption as minimal as possible.

“The good news is the students that live there today that experienced the fall will also be the first to experience the quality of the improvements in the spring.”