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The Miracle WorkersMeet the Team that Transformed ACDC

How do you finish a year’s worth of work in a couple of months? You put in a raft of 15-to-18-hour days, instill a culture of teamwork in your fellow workers, and when unexpected problems arise, you ignore the urge to panic and just plow ahead.

That’s how Michael Quattrociocchi and Anthony Ripley managed to oversee the remarkable renovation and transformation of Vassar’s All Campus Dining Center (now renamed Gordon Commons) in record time.

Quattrociocchi, whose official title is project manager and manager of building trades for the Facilities Operations office, assumed a new role for the ACDC job: In addition to performing all of his normal duties for such projects, he took on the role of general contractor. “It was a cost-cutting decision,” Quattrociocchi says. “Normally, a general contractor will receive 25 to 30 percent of the total cost of the job, so to save money, we eliminated it.”

Quattrociocchi knew he’d need some highly qualified help to accomplish this Herculean task, so he hired Ripley, a private construction manager, as his deputy. “I needed someone to share a brain with to get this done, and Tony and I had worked together in the past,” he says.

Preliminary work began over Winter Break, and some demolition and prep work continued over Spring Break, but the bulk of the project didn’t start until the students left campus May 24 – just 70 days before the Aug. 1 deadline. “To get all of that work done in that amount of time, you have to be creative,” Quattrociocchi says.

“We envisioned this as a center of campus activity, a place where students could come and eat and socialize and study, and mingle with the staff, too. I think we’ve accomplished that.”

Being creative meant scheduling many phases of the project simultaneously rather than in their normal order. “With most projects, you start at the top with the ductwork and electrical work on the ceiling, work down and do the floors last,” he says. “We poured the flooring while we were still working up above and just had to be careful to protect it.” 

Virtually all construction projects have their share of surprises, and this project had a big one: Plans called for hooking a waste disposal system to an existing sewer line, but when workers dug down to the pipe, they discovered it was crumbling. Quattrociocchi found a crew to lay new pipe, and the job continued.

He and Ripley say they were as stunned as anyone when the job was finished on time. “It was kind of like driving from one town to another and you’re speeding through a forest,” Quattrociocchi says. “All you see is the trees flying by, and suddenly there you are, at your destination.”

Ripley says one of the most important jobs he and Quattrociocchi had was building a sense of teamwork among the more than 30 separate contractors who worked on the project. “It was a real ‘Band of Brothers’ experience,” he says.

Quattrociocchi says he and Ripley realized that the long hours they had to spend on the job all summer were just as taxing on their families. Quattrociocchi missed his 25th wedding anniversary, so as soon as the job was done, the couple took a European vacation.

Now that the job is finished, both men say they enjoy strolling through the place from time to time. “We envisioned this as a center of campus activity,” Quattrociocchi says, “a place where students could come and eat and socialize and study, and mingle with the staff, too. I think we’ve accomplished that.”