Routine maintenance revealed water damage
One of Northwest College’s residence halls will get an unplanned makeover this summer, with water damage significant enough to warrant closing the building for the 2017-18 school year.
Students who would have stayed in Cody Hall will be housed in NWC’s other residence halls for the coming school year.
NWC President Stefani Hicswa outlined the physical plant’s findings for the NWC Board of Trustees Monday, as well as a plan of attack to alleviate the problem. The damage was discovered in early June during routine maintenance, and after an initial assessment, the problem was found to be worse than originally thought.
“When I put this on the agenda, what I knew was that we had some water leak into the residence halls,” Hicswa said. “I figured a little bit of water damage, no big deal. As we got looking into it more, the extent of the damage was more than I expected. So we decided to look into it a little further.”
Trapper Village and Ashley Hall also suffered minimal water damage that can be taken care of in-house, “but Cody Hall has more extensive damage,” Hicswa said.
Cody Hall was constructed out of brick and mortar, with the landscaping built right up to the bottom of the first floor windows, according to Hicswa. Over time, that ground began to sink, allowing irrigation water to seep into the foundation.
“Because of that, the water damage is more than just a little seepage into the building,” Hicswa explained. “We do not yet know the extent of the damage; we need to get a structural engineer to do an assessment and know what needs to be done.”
NWC contracted with Northern Industrial Hygiene, Inc. to perform an air sampling, environmental assessment and asbestos testing on the building. The results from initial air sampling showed mold levels ranging from 1,190 mold spores per cubic meter (spores/m3) to 13,590 spores/m3 in the rooms — that’s compared to current outside levels at 5,030 spores/m3. The molds identified are the commonly found Aspergillus and Penicillium genera.
Additionally, some wallpaper was removed as part of the environmental assessment, and visual water damage to the drywall was identified. Northern also collected samples of the drywall assembly to determine potential asbestos content and found no asbestos.
Further sampling and assessment is still in progress to determine the extent of the damage.
Based on those findings, and because the college has the room to house the students elsewhere, “we decided to close Cody Hall for the year, take time to go through the bidding process and be really strategic about the work that we do,” Hicswa said.
The board approved $100,000 for further assessment and to begin the construction phase of the project; the money will be taken out of the college’s auxiliary reserve. Hicswa anticipates that, if work begins now, the building would be ready by fall of 2018.
“Our capacity at our college is such that we do want the resident hall functioning,” Hicswa said. “Whereas we’re not at capacity for beds, we want the flexibility of having that capacity, and not shutting that residence hall down permanently.”
Having a longer timeframe to work with also could save the college a little money, as the majority of the work would take place in the winter and fall.
“Summers are really busy for contractors, so this would be indoor work during the fall and winter,” Hicswa said. “It would be a slower time, and hopefully be more cost-effective.”
Closing Cody Hall for the year will also eliminate distractions for students who otherwise would be dodging construction zones as they head to class.
“It comes down to student quality of life,” Hicswa said. “Again, our mission is student-centered. Our strategic plan focuses on an experience students have when they’re here, so we don’t want them to have to live in a construction zone, even if it’s for a few months.”