Thursday, December 11, 2014

Building Closure Dec. 17 - Jan. 4: FAQs

As noted in previous posts, the Howard-Tilton building will be closed from Dec. 17 through Jan. 4 during a portion of the upcoming intersession between semesters and due to the scale of the ceiling removal scheduled on its 1st floor.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about the building closure.
  • Why does the whole building need to be closed? The ceilings to be removed were made with a material containing a low level of asbestos and the operation will require a special containment enclosure to be set up around the area affected. This 1st floor area is enormous and encompasses all of the elevator lobby and its adjacent restrooms. It includes the area over the PJs Coffee Shop and the stairwell and foyer by the former main entrance. It covers most of the area directly above and in front of the check-out and help desk, as well as much of the Learning Commons. Basically, the size of the containment area will prohibit the functioning of too many essential services and will block too many main pathways, including emergency egress, to and from other parts of the building. 
  • Why now and these dates? The short answer is that the intersession between semesters provided the project managers a window of opportunity since the library is normally closed anyway for about 7 days between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 (with short hours of 10:45 am-4:45 pm during the rest) and longer holiday closures at other libraries are not unheard of.  For example, the Monroe Library nearby at Loyola University of New Orleans will be closed this year from Dec. 20 to Jan. 3.  But the key issue here is that the ceiling removal is not part of the construction contractor’s scope of work for the 5th and 6th floor construction. It is necessitated by an unanticipated existing condition (asbestos) that would otherwise keep the contractor from completing its work within its contractual time frame. So Tulane’s department of Capital Projects & Real Estate (CPREG) hired the abatement firm Quality Environmental Contractors to come in separately to remove the ceilings now to avoid a range of potential problems. All parties worked to meet the library’s requirement that it be able to reopen in advance of the spring semester, which starts on Jan. 12, to allow faculty to collect resources and place materials on reserve beforehand. 
  • What will the 1st floor look like when the building reopens on Jan. 5? It may look a lot like the elevator lobby on the 4th floor presently looks without its ceiling—in other words, pretty rough. The plan to rebuild the ceiling involves two phases that, according to CPREG, will be scheduled at night and mostly after normal library hours once the library reopens. The first phase involves a subcontractor installing the fire suppression (sprinkler) system that has being going in on the upper floors. The 2nd phase will be handled by other crews and will involve the hanging of the new ceiling itself plus its associated lighting and other fixtures. This may take about a month. 
  • Can books be dropped off for return while the library is closed? Yes, books can still be dropped off in the return book bins located next to at the library’s temporary entrance off Freret Street. 
  • Will the library catalog and the library’s online resources normally accessible from the library web site be maintained during the building closure? Yes.  
  • Will the library's Special Collections in Jones Hall or other Tulane libraries be affected?  No, these libraries will follow their normal intersession schedules.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Photos From the Upper Floors

Below are some photos taken this morning of the construction.  They include interior views from the new upper floors.

Click here for a larger view.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Loud Work to Cease for Study and Exam Period

Rules laid out in the construction plans prohibit disruptive work onsite during study and exam periods. This effectively means that all construction work within the lower floors of the building will cease between this Friday, Dec. 5 and Dec. 15.  Jack-hammering and other loud activity within the new framed-in area above the existing lower floors will stop too.

The construction contractor will be allowed to continue work on a short list of other projects above that are said to carry little risk of noise to students on the lower floors. One example would be the outside installation of metal exterior panels on the 5th and 6th floors.  However, these projects can be stopped by Tulane’s department of Capital Projects & Real Estate (CPREG) if they're determined to be disruptive.

Preparation for Library Closure:  With the study and exam period close at hand, construction crews have been unusually active in several areas on the lower floors this week and largely in preparation for the major- scale construction tasks planned for the building during the intersession holiday break and building shut-down (Dec. 17 through Jan. 4) between semesters. 

On the 1st floor, workers on ladders have been performing preliminary reconnaissance above the flat ceiling encompassing much of the center of the building and that will be removed during the intersession. Art work and electrical equipment in the area have been removed. Another crew erected scaffolding over the stairwell by the old entrance to the building. The scaffolding was configured to still allow students to use the stairs to get to the snack lounge during the study and exam period. On the 2nd floor the subcontractor installing the fire suppression (sprinkler) system is wrapping up work in the phase 2 zone encompassing the northwest quadrant of the building, and was to remove all materials and equipment there before the close of its work day Wednesday.

On the 4th floor, reopened last week, a crew has been working in the lobby to install the sprinkler system overhead although the area has remained open. This work will stop by the end of the day Wednesday as well.

Elevator Shutdown and Replacement

Work has begun to replace the building’s elevators and extend them to cover floors 1-6, which will include the two additional floors under construction on top of the present library building.

Tuesday morning an electrical subcontractor switched over power to a new power panel for the single elevator that will remain operational for up to 18 weeks afterward, while elevators #2 and #3 have their cables and controls replaced and are extended reach the new 5th and 6th floors. All mechanical parts from the old dismantled #2 and #3 units will be kept on site to speed repairs on elevator #1 if needed.

The power switchover and shutdown of elevators #2 and #3 did not go smoothly and the building was without any elevator service for two days, rather than for only a couple of hours before the building opened as had been planned. The advanced, 45-year old age of the elevator controls and mechanical systems set to be replaced are said to have contributed to the extra time needed for the work. In the end, to get elevator #1 to run after separating its controls from the other two, technicians needed to rebuild and rewire its controls largely from scratch and using salvaged parts.

Once the new elevators #2 and #3 are brought online in the spring, elevator #1 will be shut down and replaced.  Meanwhile, all stairwells in the building will remain open for use.  These include the central stairwell but also the two smaller stairwells at either end of the building that before the construction project were designated for emergency use only.