April 4, 2010

Hydraulics Lab Demolition Slated to Begin This Month

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The University expects to sign a contract Monday with an independent contractor to have the partially collapsed Hydraulics Lab in Fall Creek Gorge removed. Work will begin next week and will finish before Senior Class Convocation on May 30.

The Triphammer Footbridge was closed last week in anticipation of construction work in the area. The 112-year-old lab collapsed last March after shutting down in the 1960s.

According to Stephen Beyers, head of the Environmental and Energy Engineering group at Cornell and leader of the Hydraulics Lab project, the contract stipulates that all work be completed by May 26. It is a priority to have all work completed and the bridge reopened by graduation, Beyers said.

The signing of the contract begins a mandatory 10-day waiting period during which no work can be done. During this time, the contractors will perform an inspection of the area and begin setting up. They will begin removing the lab at the conclusion of the waiting period.

The work will consist of several stages. First, workers must properly remove “minor hazards,” Beyers said. The roofing contains asbestos and the lighting fixtures contain mercury and PCBs. The first stage is the most environmentally sensitive of the work, added Beyers.

Care must be taken to dispose everything properly and “not to accidentally throw anything out,” he said.

After the removal of all the hazardous materials, work to remove the actual building will begin in a top-down manner. The demolition crew cannot use a wrecking ball, like they would in most situations, because of the lab’s location in the gorge.

“You don’t want anything falling into the gorge,” Beyers said. “It’s not an extremely complex job. [However], work must be done slowly because the building is not safe.”

To ensure worker safety on the precarious structure, workers will be lowered on harnesses from the top, rather than climbing from the bottom.

As part of the removal process, workers will return the gorge to its natural condition and “restore the gorge edge the plan calls for workers to leave a piece of the building’s slab along the edge as a marker of where the historical building once stood.

The University budgeted $1 million dollars for the total cost of the project but Beyers expects to use only 80 percent of that allocation.

The original plan, first proposed in September, suggested putting a grassy sitting area with benches at the top of gorge in the hydraulics lab’s present location. The current work does not include this aspect of the plan. After the building is completely removed, the University will reconsider this part of the plan, Beyers said.

Students have mixed feelings about the removal of the landmark building.

Xin Zheng grad said that he would prefer if the University looked to see “if there is any way to keep it as scenery.” However, he admitted that a sitting area overlooking the gorge “would be cool.”

Other students are not so keen on the decrepit structure’s aesthetic value.

“I think it look[s] bad. I thought it reflected poorly on Cornell that the building [is] falling into the gorge,” Alexandria Smith ‘13 said.

Ryan Schiedo ‘13 said he does not mind the Hydraulics Lab’s removal, but wishes “they didn’t have to close the bridge.” He said that the detour adds time to his walk to class and the work should be done in the summer to avoid inconveniencing students.

Original Author: Joseph Niczky