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See progress on Phase II of the Duke Kunshan campus

Undergraduate students at Duke Kunshan University in China are contributing written and multimedia content to The Chronicle, usually published every other Friday.

Against the odds of the COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortages and extreme weather, the 22 buildings of the second phase of Duke Kunshan’s campus have steadily risen out of an empty field.

The Phase II construction project began in January 2020 and will be completed in 2022. It includes the addition of new undergraduate dorms, a sports complex and a library. 

“17 buildings’ superstructures have been completed (or ‘topped out’),” Ning Bai, general manager of the Phase II project, wrote in an email.


Phase II construction progressed dramatically between August 2020 (top) and January 2021 (bottom).

Since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, construction was halted until Feb. 23, 2020. Adding to the challenges of construction were provincial lockdowns and pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. 

“We faced a shortage of construction workers and building materials supply issues, putting the project two months behind schedule,” Bai added.

 New undergraduate residence halls are currently under construction at DKU. Courtesy of DKU.

Bai’s email explained that as construction resumed, an unexpectedly long rainy season delayed earthwork, basement and foundation work through the summer. Following this, 42 days with temperatures above 95°F limited productivity due to labor regulations protecting construction workers. 

A series of smaller COVID-19 outbreaks in Chinese cities at the beginning of January led to an early departure of workers looking to quarantine before the Chinese New Year holiday.

Approximately 1,500 workers have been involved with the project’s engineering, procurement and construction contracts, Bai added in his email.

A new building for the WHU-Duke Research Institute, a partnership between Wuhan University and Duke. Courtesy of DKU.

Despite the initial setbacks, only the sports complex and library buildings are two months behind schedule. “All other buildings are on target for their handover to DKU by end of June 2022,” Bai wrote. 

The future main entrance of campus. Courtesy of DKU.

Phase II of DKU's campus, seen from the completed Phase I (bottom). Courtesy of DKU.

The next stage of construction involves creating visual mockups of building façades, alongside masonry, primary mechanical and electrical installation work and outdoor underground piping installation, Bai’s email added. The 47-acre project was designed by Perkins & Will and is expected to receive LEED certification. 

Current construction progress (top) and a rendering of the completed second phase of campus (bottom). Courtesy of DKU.

Charlie Colasurdo is Kunshan Report editor and a sophomore in the second-ever graduating class of the Duke Kunshan campus’s undergraduate program, located outside Shanghai, China.


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