Cupples II to stay closed until summer

| Contributing Reporters

Cupples II Hall will stay closed until next summer because of renovations due to asbestos removal.

An inspection in 2006 revealed asbestos in the building, prompting administrators to approve asbestos removed a building renovation in 2010. The year is opportune because of the recent opening of Brauer Hall in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, which provided rooms for the Cupples II occupants.

Asbestos was popular as a building material in the earlier years of the 20th century and is a common problem in older buildings. Eventually its harmful effects were discovered, and its use in construction was prohibited. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to serious illness such as lung cancer or mesothelioma and is therefore a health concern for many.

“I don’t want to worry about getting poisoned on my way to class,” freshman Bryce Caster said.

But Tom Simmons, director of facilities for Arts & Sciences, said students should not be worried.

“The presence of asbestos in a building only poses risk when it becomes crumbly and airborne—friable,” Simmons explained. “So long as it remains intact, it is pretty much a benign substance.”

If workers find crumbled, loose bits of asbestos during construction, they are prepared to deal with it.

“If ever any were found to be friable, or at risk of being damaged and thus becoming friable, we would close off the area and remove it promptly,” Simmons said.

Students who walk by the building also have no reason to be concerned, as they are not in danger of being exposed.

“Most of [the asbestos] is in places where there is no risk to the public: within walls and pipe chases and in mechanical equipment rooms,” he said.

Wash. U. is taking precautions to ensure students’ safety.

“We could just encapsulate it, but our policy is to remove it completely whenever we renovate,” Simmons said. “Licensed contractors do the work following all federal and state regulations [and] then test the air to make sure there is no residue.”

The renovations in Cupples II will include eight classrooms. In addition, offices will be added for the College of Arts & Sciences and the Office of Undergraduate Research to expand on their current locations in Umrath and South Brookings halls.

There will also be new lounge and study areas for undergraduates, new rest rooms, an elevator, a two-story atrium at the western entrance and improved space for the Green Zone maintenance staff. The building will be certified to at least LEED Silver.

LEED certifications are given based on sustainability and the environmental friendliness of buildings.

The building is renovated in several steps. First, workers remove asbestos. The project will be completed from the top floor down, beginning with demolition, then the rough-in of utilities, followed by the installation of new partitions. Next, new utitilies will be distributed, then new finishes and, lastly, furnishings will be installed. Somewhere along the line they will add new windows, as well as dormers, skylights and light tubes to the roof to provide natural light to the third floor.

The University will be following the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the school’s construction safety procedures to ensure the project goes as smoothly as possible.

The project, which began this September, will conclude by August 2011.

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