Monday, November 16, 2015

Construction Progressing Toward Substantial Completion

The construction contractor and project managers are now targeting the end of November or early December as the date for substantial completion of the construction portion of the project.  At that point, they say, only minor "punch list" items should remain.

The library hopes that the new upper floors will be ready to be opened for use for the start of the Spring 2016 semester.

One sure sign of progress is that the area of the central stairs that had been closed between the 3rd and 4th floors has now been opened. This will give library users clear access to all open floors of the building via the central stairs, for the first time in a long time.

It will also reduce if not eliminate the need to rely on the Freret Street and Dixon Hall side emergency stairwells, at least for now.  Portions of the central stairwell will still need to be closed at some points in the weeks ahead in order for crews to install glass panels next to the handrails for each stair section, but this will be phased in sequence, a day or so for each floor. Project managers say the subcontractor handling this operation would likely end work on each of these days between 3-4 pm.  In other words, it appears that the operation might not block full use of the stairs in the late afternoon or evenings. 

Furniture: Crews from Associated Office Systems have nearly completed the delivery and installation of the furniture for the 5th and 6th floors. Staged deliveries were brought into the library during the past couple of weeks through the exit door on the Dixon Hall side of the building as well as from the loading dock at the southwest corner of the building, and then to the upper floors via elevator #2 from the 1st floor lobby.  The furniture included study carrels, tables for media and microforms viewing stations, large tables for computers in each elevator lobby, classroom furniture, office furniture, and more.

Most of the shelving for the upper floors had already been delivered and installed earlier this fall, with just one more area of shelving, at the southeast corner of the 5th floor, still pending.

Fire Suppression System: The construction contractor and its subcontractor for the building’s new fire suppression (sprinkler) has for the past couple of weeks been introducing water to the system, floor by floor. They began on new 5th and 6th floors, then worked downward.  Prior to this the system has been tested several times: (first) as lines and heads were installed in quadrants on each floor and (second) for entire floors before sprinkler crews were allowed to progress downward through the building. The tests of the system were air pressure tests that looked for air leaks that might expose problems.

The tests were not infallible, however.  When water was introduced to the system on the 3rd floor, a leak occurred around a seal on a main line just outside the entrance to Classroom 309 in the ILC/CLUE area and over an adjacent office doorway. Thereafter, as the operation proceeded, the system was retested multiple times again, this time with higher levels of air pressure said to provide a closer approximation of the water pressure that would be produced in the same pipes.  Now that water has been brought into the system as a whole, more stringent testing of the entire fire suppression system and its pumps and controls will soon follow. This will be performed by independent commissioning engineers and eventually by the state fire marshal.

Elevator:  Presently there are still only two elevators serving the library building and one of the two is designated for construction use only, which leaves one elevator for general library use.  The last remaining elevator to be brought back online after having been rebuilt and extended to reach the new upper floors is still awaiting clearance from the city's elevator inspector, who has called for some additional work within the elevator shaft before all three elevators can be returned for normal use. The construction contractor reports that the work in the elevator shaft might be completed by the end of this week.

Exterior:   Most of the construction fencing around the exterior of the building has now been removed and landscapers have largely returned the space surrounding the building to its original condition, although the area bordering the library along Freret Street still needs to be re-sodded.  Tulane Facilities Services is scheduled to place new plants in the planter boxes around the edge of the building later this week. Tulane Capital Projects & Real Estate (CPREG) hired an outside contractor to clean the exterior of the lower floors of the building.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Updates: Central Stairs, Project Timeline Estimate, and More

Late last week crews were finally able to complete the pouring of cement for the fabrication of the 5th and 6th floor stairs in the library's central stairwell. In the long process that determined the best method for accomplishing this task, the construction contractor ended up using a different cement mixture than the one that would have needed 21 days to cure before the stair forms could be removed. The new mixture may be cured enough to remove the forms within about a week. Moisture content, temperature, and other properties of the cement will likely be assessed within the next  day or so.  If the pour is judged to be successful, the focus will shift toward determining when the supports and scaffolding in the lower portions of the stairwell can be removed, and when some or all of the stairwell might be returned to use.

When the central stairwell is cleared of the supports and scaffolding, new glass rails will need to be installed for all the stairs at all levels from the basement up. In late summer, when the fabrication of the 5th and 6th floor stairs wasn’t behind schedule, the plan for the glass rails was to install them in a phased sequence--a little at a time. With time running out in the construction schedule, it may be decided to lay in the rails under a more concentrated timeline with the stairwell still closed.

Updated Estimated Project Timeline
Below is a chart that illustrates some key projects in the final stages of the construction timeline, including  key projects remaining. While the construction itself will wind down as planned later this fall, the new 5th and 6th floor spaces likely will not be ready for general use until collections and staff can be moved into them. The moving project will be enormous and involve the careful packing, transport, and reshelving of more than 55,000 linear feet of collections.  With some funding issues now resolved, the project may be put out to bid within the next couple of weeks.  If so, the first of three phases of the move would begin during the winter intersession with the second and third phases following in the first half of the spring semester. If all goes well, the new floors might be opened for general use upon completion of the first phase, i.e., for the start of the upcoming spring semester.

Timeline: Click to enlarge

Pile Driving [Noise Alert]
The first phase of pile driving to lay foundations for new stairs for the emergency exits of the building has  been completed on the backside of the building and adjacent to door exiting the center of the Technical Services area on the library’s 1st floor. The next set of piles is expected to be driven this week, likely on Tuesday, for the exit on the Freret Street side of the building. Preliminary to the pile driving on the Freret Street side of the building, workers are removing some cement that had been part of the former temporary library entrance within the same fenced area.

The city’s elevator inspector has now issued a conditional “contractor’s” permit to bring online elevator #2, which is the middle elevator in the elevator lobby of each of the building's floors.  This effectively designates elevator #2 for construction use only, while construction continues. Elevator #3, the closest elevator to the west side of the building in each lobby, is now functioning as library use only (for library personnel and library users). Meanwhile, crews from Schindler Elevator Co are now focused on finishing elevator #1. Its primarily remaining issues are some glitches with the new controls on its second door that opens facing the back of the Help Desk area on the 1st floor and replacement of overhead bearings to eliminate the same slight vibration that the inspector had noted in elevator #2. Once these items are resolved an inspection for elevator #1 will be scheduled ASAP. Elevator #1 would also function as library use only (for library personnel and library users).

The engineers from MCC Mechanical, MCC Metal, MCC Commissioning, Siemens Controls, and Siemens Pneumatics are still slowly working on their examination of the building’s entire HVAC system to determine what’s working now and what’s still not. The process is expected to take a few more days. Temperature and humidity readings have continued to show some improvement in the building’s climate overall, although problems are being addressed in isolated areas such as hot spots where only warm air has been emitting from air vents. Example hot spots include some offices on the 4th floor; the 3rd floor classroom area, especially rooms 306 and 309; the 2nd floor admin office area; and the 1st floor area near the entrance and closer to the Dixon side of the building. The Latin American Library closed stacks area on the 4th floor is still overcooling. These problems should eventually be resolved by the replacement of broken thermostats, actuators, and dampers.