Asbestos is used to help with the acoustics and soundproofing of a room and can be found in older buildings on campus. However, at the end of the current semester contractors will begin removal of asbestos in certain areas of the Wallace Building.
Paul Gannoe, director of capital construction and project administration, said the project will take about eight weeks. A large majority of the project will consist of finalizing documents and receiving prices, Gannoe said. He said the actual work of removing asbestos will take about three to four weeks, and they will be finishing around June or early July.
To make sure those who enter or who are in the building are out of harm’s way, there have been many safeguards.
Gannoe said the people removing the asbestos are air contractors certified in the removal of asbestos. Additionally, the office has to give notice to the Division for Air Quality, a state regulator who oversees this type of work. They will mostly be observing while the contractors remove the asbestos, then they will check the work, Gannoe said.
The office also has the help of a professional consulting firm called Air Source Technology, a firm that helps people navigate abatement projects, Gannoe said. There will also be someone to check on the work from the capital construction staff.
“I don’t want to say it’s run of the mill work, but it’s kind of run of the mill work,” Gannoe said. “It’s not particularly difficult abatement work.”
They will also take air samples with a special fan before, during and after the abatement to make sure no particles have escaped into the air, Gannoe said. About half a dozen classrooms, some stairwell space and mechanical rooms will be abated, and Gannoe said they will make sure to contain the rooms with PVC sheets and plastic taped up.
“It’ll be a very closely orchestrated effort,” Gannoe said.
The Wallace Building will remain open for the summer and is fully accessible, but there will be no classes taking place inside, Gannoe said. The registrar’s office has already scheduled the summer courses in other buildings.
The only exception is the Audiology Clinic, which will remain open during the removal of the asbestos. Professors will still be able to go to their offices if needed, while any classroom that is being abated will be contained and they will be able to safely walk past it, Gannoe said. Custodial staff will also be able to continue working in the Wallace Building with the exception of the classrooms and mechanical rooms being abated.
As for the air conditioning, Gannoe said he met with faculty, at the request of President Benson, about whether or not the air conditioning should stay on. They originally planned on turning it off, but based on the feedback from the faculty they decided not to, Gannoe said.
David Williams, director of facilities services, said the asbestos abatement is safe as long as the things that contain asbestos – such as tiles and the glue – aren’t crumbling.
“Asbestos is only dangerous when it’s fried [airborne],” Williams said.
Williams said risk management knows where the asbestos is and has a blueprint of the locations in Wallace containing asbestos. However, just because it contains asbestos doesn’t mean it needs to be removed, Williams said. Williams said he has full confidence the removal will be done safely and efficiently.
“Not as troubling as you might guess,” Williams said. “Especially if you have professionals.”
In addition to the asbestos removal, they will also fix the bricks in the first level of Wallace, Gannoe said. Around the entrances of Wallace, there have been poles holding bricks that are failing. Gannoe said the bricks haven’t fallen or harmed anyone and aren’t a safety issue, but it is mostly a water infiltration issue.
Repairing the bricks will take the entirety of the summer break and is the main reason why classes will not be taking place inside of Wallace. The noise of machines working on the bricks may disrupt the learning environment, Gannoe said.
“The noisy work should be done early,” Gannoe said.
All projects involving the Wallace Building are planned to be finished before the fall semester begins.