Students confused about cracks in construction

By Bethany Gallimore
On February 20, 2014

Residents of the Honors Living Learning Community Building 4 have become increasingly concerned this semester about the cause, nature and effects of the various hairline wall cracks, loose nails and sink caulking issues they have encountered in their residence hall.

However, there is no need for students to worry, according to David Handwork, director of planning, design and construction for A-State.

The details students have voiced concerns over are caused by the normal contraction and settling of the building, instead of being caused by building movement, Handwork said.

Reslife Maintenance and the Baldwin and Shell contractors, who completed construction of the residence hall in 2013, have conducted a thorough post-construction investigation of the foundation of the building.

“There is no evidence of foundational or structural sinking and damage, which demonstrates that the building is really, really structurally sound,” Handwork said.

Construction of the residence hall was completed in July 2013 and the building had its first residents move in before the fall 2013 semester.

Handwork said it is typical for new buildings to experience growing pains, especially when the buildings are subjected to extreme variations of temperature.

“With the dry air the moisture leaves, and then with the very cold weather we’ve had, everything shrinks,” Handwork said. The cracks students have observed in the walls are the result of settling and contraction within the building framework.

Rebecca Oliver, director of the Honors College, said all of the damages that have been noticed in Building 4 are cosmetic, not structural.

“All of these little things are normal in the construction of any type of building, be that a residence hall on campus or a house for a family,” Oliver said. “We appreciate students bringing these things to our attention so they can be corrected.”

The new building houses over 100 Honors students in a suite-style living community.

Clare Doss, a freshman interdisciplinary studies major of Berryville and HLLC 4 resident, has had several of the problems appear in her room. “We have sheetrock nails coming out of our walls,” Doss said.

The doorposts around Doss’s bedroom and bathroom show long vertical cracks running along the trim.

Also, the grout around her sink has peeled completely away from the walls, making it impossible to let water get on the counter without risking it trickling down into the newly exposed holes.

The problems encountered in Doss’s room are typical of the damage pointed out in Building 4.

Matthew Yaksic, a freshman political science major of Hampton and resident of HLLC Building 4, said he has noticed cracks along the doorframes of his room.

“The cracks are about eight inches long, and not really wide, just noticeable,” Yaksic said. “We just figured it was foundation problems or settling issues with the new building.”

Not all students notice the issues in Building 4, and the problems in Yaksic’s room are mainly cosmetic, typical of the few issues the first generation of Building 4 residents have encountered.

Anna Hudson, a sophomore chemistry major of Cabot currently living in Building 4, noticed the caulking around her sink area beginning to peel away around the time of winter break.

Hudson said the gap around the counter area hasn’t bothered her or her suitemate, who initially didn’t notice the damage.

The gap is approximately ¼ to ½ inch wide, and runs along Hudson’s entire sink counter area.

“In Building 4 we have walls around three sides of our sinks,” She said. “I think (the gap) just needs to be re-caulked.”

This type of damage will be corrected this summer after residents of the building have moved out, Handwork said.

Hudson said she is not concerned about the caulking problem, but does not want herself or her suitemate to be billed for the damage.

“It’s not that big of a deal, but it is a big deal if I get charged for it,” she said. “It doesn’t make me angry or anything. Settling is expected of a new building.”

The building is still under a one-year warranty from its contracting company Baldwin and Shell. Baldwin and Shell will perform and pay for any touch-up work the building requires until the warranty expires this July.

Handwork estimates Building 4 to have a lifespan of 50 or more years.

“Working with Reslife and the Honors program makes our construction staff even more aware of (the) issues,” Handwork said.

If students have any concerns about their buildings, Handwork said they should contact Reslife Maintenance or Student Affairs.

“We’ll get it addressed quickly,” he said. “I would rather people voice their concerns than ignore something that might be an issue.”

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