Author: Andrea Tuemmler
Occidental began the process of re-roofing Nov. 16 in preparation for the rainy season. The renovations are ongoing.
Facilities is renovating and repairing the roofs of Fowler and Stearns Halls, as well as Rush Gymnasium and adjacent locker rooms. The department is also installing a protective coating system on the roofs of Mary Norton Clapp Library and Booth Music Hall, according to Joe O’Hara, the architect and senior project manager.
“We have determined the aforementioned buildings as the ones most in need of these repairs,” O’Hara said.
The project, originally planned to begin Nov. 14, was delayed for two days due to forecasts of rain, although such rain never occurred. The repairs are in anticipation of the heavy rains of a predicted El Niño, O’Hara said.
El Niño is a weather pattern characterized by warm temperatures over the Pacific Ocean that bring heavy and sustained rain. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict that it will hit Los Angeles during the 2015–16 winter season.
Art History and Visual Arts Professor Eric Frank, who was assistant dean of the college during the last El Niño in 1997–98, said that due to its location, Occidental is uniquely vulnerable to heavy rains. The campus was designed in the early 1900s in an area with a high water table to ensure easy access to water. Due to a combination of other roofing issues and the way water drains downhill toward the center of campus, this location creates challenges for Occidental’s infrastructure during heavy rains, Frank said.
Frank recalled the 1997 El Niño, when rain caused significant damage to Weingart Hall. The building is situated on a particularly high part of the water table, so when the water rose due to the rain, the basement flooded. The film department — now the Media Arts and Culture department — kept equipment in the Weingart basement, and when the water hit the electrical cables, the power across campus entirely cut out, according to Frank.
“It was the only time I can remember classes being cancelled for a facility-related incident,” Frank said.
After the incident, the exterior of Weingart was dug out and waterproofed, but it has yet to be seriously tested by another El Niño. Frank noted that other buildings were also updated to mitigate future water damage. Leaks in the Bioscience Building were fixed, and sandbags in front of the bookstore in the Johnson Student Center are now standard procedure during the winter.
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