800 Bed Rails in Two Weeks

When dorms were upsized to accommodate more students, and their vendor was unable to meet the deadline with the additional demand, Northeastern’s carpentry shop stepped in to fill the gap. The team worked overtime to make and install 800 bed rails in two weeks, to be ready for students by September move-in.

Building Trades Supervisor Chris Chase remembers getting a call from Scott Peterson, Associate Director at Northeastern University. Two dorms, International Village and East Village, had been upsized to accommodate more students. With the upsizing, approximately 800 beds needed to be fitted into the dorms, leading many beds to be raised up as bunks or lofts to create additional space. With this addition, many beds needed new bed rails for safety. But as the move-in date for Northeastern students grew closer, the vendor responsible for supplying the bed rails was unable to accommodate the additional demand. “I received the phone call from Scott Peterson at seven o’clock at night,” says Chase. “Just to talk through the whole scenario and see if it was even an option for us to really be able to build these.” After some deliberation, Chase and Peterson determined they would push forward with building the bed rails on campus.


“Basically, it’s just a matter of can we get the material in time,” Chase explains. “Which was a task in itself, just getting the wood and all the hardware was step one.” They selected red oak for the wood, in order to match existing dorm furniture. The day after his conversation with Peterson, Chase was making more phone calls. “I reached out to a bunch of different vendors that we have relationships with,” says Chase. “They were able to commit to some of the material. We received 75% of it in the first week, and by the end of that week, we received the final delivery.”

The process of ordering and preparing the materials for assembly provided its own set of challenges. “It was a lot of preparations, and when we purchased the material, the only way I could buy it was in bulk. And it was all at random lengths. So everything needed to be milled down to the right size, “sanded, router all the edges, and then they made a special jig for each station and would prep them.” Chase describes.


Once properly prepared, the bed rails were assembled. “We were basically building them in batches of 100,” says Chase. Each set of 100 assembled bed rails was delivered to Matthew’s Arena, where the team organized a painting station. The bed rails were sanded and coated in two layers of polyurethane paint. “One of the obstacles we ran into was how to finish [the bed rails] with two coats,” Chase describes. The team created a giant rack, which could be used to stand the bed rails up vertically. This allowed for a system where the team could sealcoat the bedrails and then move them to a drying station for 24 hours, before the next team picked them up the next morning.”


With many staff members involved at different stages, the team’s assembly line through campus moved with remarkable efficiency. “We would complete 100 [bed rails] that would then be picked up. It was like a huge assembly line that took probably 50 people to fully execute,” explains Chase. Mark Boulter, Senior Director of Building Services, coordinated to ensure the bed rails reached the necessary dorm rooms. This also took coordination with the Residential Life staff, to prioritize bed rails in rooms with early arrival students.

The entire process was completed within 10 days, thanks to the hardworking team and their strong relationships with staff and local vendors. “We have special relationships with companies that will do [things like this] for us when we need it. And that’s what makes this whole place tick,” explains Chase.

Boulter followed, “I think just goes to show you how… across the Planning, Real Estate, and Facilities organization, we have collaboration, and in the commitment and the hard work of the staff, there’s never a challenge we haven’t met or exceeded. And it’s a credit to the team. It’s a credit to the team because whatever challenges arise, our team surpasses, whatever the expectation is going to be, so it’s amazing… it’s a testament to not only how Scott works with his team, but how Chris works with his team. There’s the buy-in from his team, and the commitment, and they get the job done. It starts with all the respect and the rapport that the managers have with the staff.”

Written by Daria Healey on Sep. 19, 2022
Photos by Alex Gritsinin

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