Monday, October 13, 2014

WARNING: Library Floor Closures Expected to Start in November; 4th Floor Most Likely First

Tulane’s department of Capital Projects & Real Estate (CPREG) in consultation with the university’s Office of Environmental Health & Safety (OEHS) has told the library that an upcoming project requiring the ceilings to be removed in each elevator lobby of the Howard-Tilton building will require floor closures. The ceiling removal project is expected to begin around the second week of November. If the schedule holds the elevator lobby of the 4th floor will be closed first.

Because the configuration of the 4th floor does not allow through-access from one side of the building to the other except through its elevator lobby, blocked access will require the entire floor to be closed for public use. In other words, without access to the central stairwell on the 4th floor there would not be a second means of exiting the floor if for any reason the emergency stairwell on each side of the building were blocked.

The 4th floor houses the Latin American Library, the Music & Media Center, and general books stacks with call numbers A – DA. These areas would be inaccessible during the period in which the 4th floor lobby would be closed, and this period has been projected to be about 11 working days, expected to begin around the second week of November. The library may be able to arrange a retrieval system for books in the Latin American Library and the general books stacks, but the recorded materials (CDs and DVDs) housed in the Music & Media Center would be off limits even to library staff since there is no access there from outside the elevator lobby.

Removal and replacement of the ceilings in the existing elevator lobbies is needed to install the fire suppression (sprinkler system) that is required by building codes governing the construction of the 5th/6th floor building addition. The ceilings to be removed were made with a material containing a low level of asbestos and their removal will require special containment areas to be set up around the lobbies and procedures for monitoring. But the blocking of emergency egress caused by the work would be the reason for shutting off public access to a floor and not necessarily the presence of asbestos there--since no asbestos release is expected during the removal process because of the strict regulatory abatement procedures to be used, according to CPREG and the OEHS.

Building Closure in December:  Once the ceiling in the 4th floor lobby is removed, the process would be repeated on the lower floors. The exact sequence has not yet been set, but general plan would be to avoid closure of the 3rd floor with its large Study Commons before the study and exam period that begins on Dec. 5. The sequence will need to allow the abatement contractors and other crews involved to gain some experience with the smaller upper floor lobbies before tackling the much larger ceiling that will need to be removed on the 1st floor. Because of the scale of the 1st floor work and its location in the path of the main entrance to the building, the central stairwell, and the main access to the elevators, the 1st floor work would be scheduled for the intersession after exams end on Dec. 17. For a period during the intersession the building will need to be closed. After the 1st floor work is completed and the building reopened, the work would then resume on any upper floor elevator lobbies remaining.

The ceiling removal project is currently still out to bid, so some details and an exact schedule and sequence for the project are not yet determined. More information will be posted as the project takes shape.

Capital Projects & Real Estate (CPREG)has management oversight over the 5th/6th floor build-back construction project. The Office of Environmental Health & Safety (OEHS) advises the university on health and safety issues, including adherence to fire safety and environmental codes and regulations.

For the library the construction is progressing toward its most disruptive period, and somewhat reminiscent of those early post-Katrina days, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Also coming in November will be the shut down and planned replacement of two of the library’s three original elevator units. These units, elevators 2 and 3, are expected to be out of commission for about 18 weeks in order to replace their cables and controls and to extend them to reach the new 5th and 6th floors. Meanwhile, up above, the contractor will need to begin to use jackhammers to start the larger-scale removal of the old cement layer-roof membrane covering what will be the new 5 floor and this may necessarily need to begin with removal of the thick concrete platform on which the old elevator mechanical systems presently reside.

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