Falling shingles endanger pedestrians

Rest assured: The roofs of the Biology Building and Science Complex are not caving in. They are being redesigned after several shingles reportedly fell off these recently constructed buildings and caused potential danger to pedestrians.

Don Lovett, associate professor of biology and faculty consultant of the Biology Building design team, said that he did not know of anyone who had been hit by falling shingles, but he confirmed that falling snow caused by the roof defects hit at least one person. That person was not injured.

According to Matthew Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, the extent of the problem still must be investigated.

“We need to determine the nature of the defect,” he said. “Shingles shouldn’t be falling off a relatively new building, so we need to look at the roof insulation, membranes, flashing, terminations and details to find out what is causing the problem.”

Lovett said the major cause of the problem is that shingles were secured to the roof too tightly.

“According to what I have been told,” he said, “the individual slate shingles were nailed down too tightly when they were installed, causing the free end of each shingle to lift above the surface of the next shingle below it. Under the weight of a heavy snowfall, the free end is pressed down, and the shingle acts like a lever, prying the nail out of the roof. Eventually all of the nails in a particular shingle get pulled out, and the slate slides off the roof.”

Lovett said the shingles have come off since their first winter, and that the snow guards never functioned properly. Thus, anytime there is a substantial snowfall, the snow load on the roof comes down in thunderous avalanches that rattle the windows.

“This, indeed, is a dangerous situation,” Lovett said. “I believe that the folks at Facilities, Building Services and Campus Planning and Construction have been diligent in attending to these issues.”

These offices have assured that sidewalks have been kept salted and sanded and that dangerous areas have been surrounded with yellow tape and signs to keep pedestrians safe until further long-term action begins.

So far, the problems have not been reported as affecting classes in the buildings; however, there has been extensive water damage due to leaks from the Biology Building roof. Water leaked through to the second and third floor, causing damage to some ceiling tiles.

As for addressing permanent repairs, Lovett said, “The problem is one of assigning final (financial) liability . the real question is who is responsible for paying to remediate the problem.”

“All departments in the College are very concerned about this,” Lovett said. “However, the problems are extensive, complex and expensive to fix.”

Golden said the College received bids for professional design services for the Science Complex and Biology Building roofs and the Board of Trustees approved the contract at its Feb. 21 meeting.

“The schedule for this project includes a field investigation and documentation phase beginning approximately in mid-March, followed by a scheme design, construction documentation and bidding for construction,” Golden said.

The construction would start no earlier than October and could be completed as early as February 2007. Weather and other factors may affect the schedule.

“A precise schedule will be developed as the project work with the designer moves forward,” Golden said.

The Biology Building was completed in 2000 and the Science Complex opened in Fall 2002. The Science Complex houses the departments of chemistry, physics and mathematics and statistics.