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  December 9, 2002

Law School Library Facade Needs Repair
By Karen A. Grava

The façade of the Law School Library, completed in 1996 at a cost of $24 million, is not properly attached to the building and will need to be replaced, according to a report commissioned by the University. Work to temporarily anchor the façade will begin on December 19, just after exams are concluded.

The 125,000-square-foot facility, built by the state Department of Public Works, has had water leakage problems since it was opened. When repeated complaints to DPW about the building and repairs to the building's flashing did not stop the leaks, the University hired a forensic architectural engineering firm, Hoffman Architects of North Haven, to investigate the problem, said Larry Schilling, executive director for architectural and engineering services.

Although originally hired to investigate the water leakage problems, Hoffman discovered structural problems in the course of its work. Hoffman's 48-page report indicates that the façade was improperly attached to the building and could be in danger of coming loose in either high winds or an earthquake. The report also notes that the flashing necessary to deflect water from the building's interior was improperly installed. In some cases, pieces of plastic tarp were substituted for PVC flashing.

Last week, the University constructed pedestrian bridges over the main entrance and exit to the building, and roped off the patio and other areas outside the library.

"Although Hoffman is confident that there is no imminent danger, we are moving quickly to take corrective action. Because the health and safety of our community must be paramount, the University constructed pedestrian bridges at the Library's entrance and exit points," said Nell Jessup Newton, dean of the law school, in a memo sent last week to law school faculty, staff, and students. "Construction of pedestrian bridges will enable us to postpone the first phase of the repairs until examinations are completed."

The temporary anchoring of the façade should be completed by February 1, said Schilling. Work to replace the façade may begin in the spring and will be finished in the fall of 2004. Preliminary estimates indicate that the cost of repair could reach $5 million to $7 million.

President Philip E. Austin met with DPW Comissioner Theodore R. Anson in October, to share the Hoffman report and discuss corrective action. At that time, he urged the commissioner to request that the Attorney General pursue action as appropriate against contractors and architects involved with the project.

Reconstruction of the façade will mean relocating some classes scheduled to take place in the library.

Newton said she is working to find alternative space that will cause the least inconvenience to students and faculty.

"Our library is a beautiful structure," she said. "When the renovation work is completed, we will be proud again to have one of the most beautiful law libraries in the country."

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