Campus Construction Update: Nov. 12, 2010

Roger Williams Hall roof

The Bates helicopter fleet not being at our disposal, Campus Construction Update has spent some time seeking a high vantage point to photograph the work being done atop Roger Williams Hall.

From ground level, it sure looks like interesting goings on up there, what with the noteworthy angles of the steel skeleton, the concrete-block elevator shaft poking up into the middle of it and the workers  swarming around.

In fact, says project manager Paul Farnsworth, there was more to do up there than anyone had originally planned. Once the roof was off, he says, “we discovered that the mortar in the top rows of  wall bricks had degraded, so we had to repair those. Around the whole perimeter, we took off the bricks, and we have reset them.”

Campus Construction Update returns in early December.

The bricks weren’t loose enough to fall off and bean anybody, Farnsworth says, but they could be wiggled, and masons had to repair five rows, or courses, of them. It wasn’t a complete surprise, because a couple of similarly wiggly spots had turned up over at Hedge Hall.

“So we knew there was a possibility of it at Roger Williams. But we had to wait for the roof to come off so we could actually examine it.”

Roger Williams Hall addition

The repair should be complete as this is written, and that will clear the way for the installation of joists to support the roof decking. Around the same time, workers will top off the elevator shaft with its final courses of concrete blocks.

The push is on, Farnsworth said, to get the roof essentially watertight — with joists in place, decked with plywood and sealed with a membranous ice-and-water shield — by mid-December.

In other Roger Bill news, most of the floor slabs were poured for the addition. The exception is the entryway floor. That area was kept open because it’s the access for a little four-wheeled excavator that has been cutting trenches, for plumbing and so forth, in the basement floor. When the trenches are done, which should be soon, workers will use a big, strong power shovel to hoist the little bitty excavator out.

There must be a children’s book in there somewhere.

Those new floor slabs were covered with fiber-filled blankets to keep the concrete warm while it cured, a typical practice in cool weather. A windy rainstorm that wrought havoc through the region last  Sunday night blew the blankets off.


No harm to the concrete, but the blankets loosed their fill on an unsuspecting world. “There was fluff  everywhere,” Farnsworth says.

A bigger concern during the storm was the section of roof that has been retained from the building’s  previous lid. The section, at the Alumni Walk end of the building, stands up at an angle and its underside is open to the wind, making it a good substitute for a sail.

“Of course, I woke up on Sunday night at 12:30 when the storm blew in,” says Farnsworth, “and thought of that portion of the roof.” Needless to say, but we’ll say it anyway, the roof stayed put.

Anyway, wind can have an upside. Good thing, since it was blowing most of the week. “Everything was sopping wet on Wednesday,” after a couple of rainy days, “but that wind yesterday dried the buildings out.”

Over at Hedge, the roof is all but enclosed. What’s left to do? Carpenters are building a dormer on the corner closest to the Library Quad — a spot that had been left open as access through which the crane lowered things into the building.

On the other side of the building, near Dana Chemistry, a small section of roof that runs perpendicular to Alumni Walk, and will cover the stairwell, has been framed in. It should be closed up this weekend.

Hedge Hall

In addition, concrete bases for lampposts have been poured (the lamps themselves are a ways off) and the construction fence will soon be backed off the Alumni Walk pavement to make way for — sorry to bring this up — snow plowing. Inside the building, subflooring is in progress and metal wall studs are going up; the ground floor is pretty much studded in.

We started with masonry and we’ll end with masonry. The week of the 15th, masons will start covering the Hedge addition with a veneer of brick, embellished with a granite — which is called pink but actually has an orange grain — that matches the stone on the original building.

“The granite banding is the first thing that goes down,” says Farnsworth.

That stone arrived on Veterans Day, but only after machinations. The quarry that supplied the original stone a century ago was still around — but not currently active. “We found an equivalent, what we think is a very good match,” quarried in Maine and supplied by Freshwater Stone of Orland, Maine.

Problem solved, but it’s a good reminder to be careful what you take for granite.

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