Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Central Stairwell to be Temporarily Closed

The contractor for the 5th and 6th floor construction project has finalized a plan to build a concrete supporting wall (shear wall) within the library’s central stairwell and the plan includes closing public access to the stairwell very soon.

At this point the stairwell closure is scheduled to begin as early as Feb. 10 and projected to last until Aug. 15. All existing floors in the building will be affected, but will still remain in use.

While the central stairwell is blocked off, the library will have use of both of its emergency stairwells: on the Freret Street and Dixon Hall sides of the building.  Library users will be able to use to at least one of these, on the Dixon Hall side of the building, as a temporary alternative to the center stairwell. Project managers will be preparing directional signage. The building’s elevators will still be operational.

Construction of a shear wall support within the central stairwell will require removal of large sheets of marble to be reinstalled later, and this alone cannot be accomplished safely without closing off the stairwell. The contractor and project managers say the lengthy time period that the stairwell will be blocked off is required to accommodate the careful removal of the marble, the demolition of the cinder block wall behind the marble, and construction of the poured concrete shear wall slab from the 2nd floor upward. Then the marble must be successfully rehung and the stairwell returned to form with new taller railings installed to meet modern building codes and to match those that will be in the new portion of the stairwell on floors 5-6.  Eventually, workers will also need to build a pressurized glass enclosure with doors at the entrance to the stairwell on the 1st floor in order to comply with fire safety codes.

By the time those tasks are completed in June, the contractor should be ready to open the roof over the stairwell to an unfinished level 5, which accounts for the additional time that the stairwell is expected to be blocked off.

Meanwhile, the crane for the project is still scheduled to begin to arrive on Feb. 10, which will be a major undertaking since it will be delivered in pieces to the construction site on 23 separate trucks.

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