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.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Stepped Up Construction Activity

With the construction project due to reach its “substantial completion” stage in a little more than a month, the construction contractor and its subcontractors are working extra shifts and Saturdays to complete remaining tasks and especially tasks on the lower floors.

Here are updates on some current activities:

Crews from Schindler Elevator Co. are very close to completing work on both elevators #1 and #2, and the sump pumps required for the bottom of each shaft were ordered for installation this week. It is technically possible that at least one of the additional elevators could be back in service within a week or so, if the city's elevator inspector approves.

Central Stairs 
As of this afternoon, cement had still not been poured for the complex fabrication of the 5th and 6th floor stairs in the central stairwell. This project has been in stasis for the past month as engineers, architects, and project managers have gone back and forth over its requirements. Once the cement is poured it may need to cure for 21 days before the forms are removed and the stairs can be finished. Thus, the central stairs may one of the last projects completed in the main construction timeline.  Meanwhile, there has been a lot of work activity related to electrical circuits and smoke control system dampers around the interior air shafts adjacent to all of the building’s stairwells.

HVAC (Temperature and Humidity Control)
Basically, the building's new HVAC system is now running on automatic controls but not yet at preferred temperatures and relative humidity consistently throughout the building.  As predicted the building has warmed after introducing hot air into the mix, but the engineers on the project think they are getting closer to working the kinks out.  Still, two things need to happen before the system can be correctly balanced: (1) the engineers and technicians need to complete the work needed to identify and fix faulty pneumatic thermostats, disconnected or undersized horizontal pneumatic mains, faulty actuators on VAV boxes, and frozen or locked up damper shafts on the lower floors and (2) they need to complete work on the replacement or repair of smoke control dampers leading from the overhead air duct in the ceilings to the vertical duct in each of the building’s interior chases by each stairwell. All this could take a couple of weeks, but some gradual climate improvement should be noticeable before then.

Fences and Remaining Perimeter Work
The construction fence occupying Newcomb Place has been been removed, the area within mostly restored, and parking places restriped (repainted).  The area was reopened for parking by Tulane Public Safety yesterday. Meanwhile, crews have begun to dismantle the temporary main entrance on the Freret Street side of the building that served the library during the earlier stages of the construction. Along the back of the building crews have almost completed the removal of the remaining pieces of the galvanized steel towers and other equipment from the temporary HVAC that served the library since January 2006.  Construction building codes require new stairs for the building's three emergency exits and this will require piles to be driven.  Likely next week, the first set of piles will be driven on the west side of the building adjacent to door exiting the center of the Technical Services area on the library’s 1st floor. Those stairs will require 4 piles, 30-ft in length. Next a set of two piles will be driven for the exit on the Freret Street side of the building, and this is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 28. Two more piles for the exit on the Dixon hall side of the building could be driven on either date, depending which pile driver on site at the time is determined to be most suitable for that location, which is squeezed within the contractor’s newly compressed construction staging area.

Shelving and Furniture for the New Upper Floors
Almost all the shelving for the upper floors has been delivered and on the 6th floor most of it has already been installed.  The 5th floor installation is next.  Furniture for the upper floors is expected to begin to arrive early next month and deliveries will be scheduled through the remainder of October. Only minor details in the FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures, & Equipment) process still need to be wrapped up. Tulane Technology Services is assisting with the preparation of specs to seek bids for computer equipment in the 5th and 6th floor elevator lobbies and instructional technology equipment for the two classrooms on the 6th floor.