Section: archive

Faulty sprinkler floods NCA

By Staff

In early August, an accidental sprinkler detachment caused significant water damage in North Campus Apartment (NCA) unit 10A, postponing student arrival and forcing new construction on several parts of the apartment.

On Aug. 7, Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman heard something outside the unit, according to Director of Campus Planning and Construction Steve Arnett.

On the third floor in one of the bedrooms, the head of a water sprinkler had separated from the sprinkler pipe. “Those lines have water in them all the time, so when they’re called upon to spray water [in case of a fire] there’s no hesitation,” Arnett said. “So when [the water] hit the carpet, it started finding the floor registers and any other way downstairs. We had water coming down the stairs.”

All campus buildings are required by code to have a water flow detection meter set up in Campus Safety in order to immediately signal officers of any sprinkler activity and allow for prompt response. However, “in this particular case,” Arnett said, “because we were finishing up the buildings, that wasn’t all hooked up yet.”

Still, the entirety of the water damage likely occurred in less than an hour, according to Arnett, who had, coincidentally, visited the unit about 45 minutes before receiving Kohlman’s call.

After shutting off the water, Kohlman and Arnett hired SERVPRO, a fire and flood damage restoration company. Workers arrived that evening with dehumidifiers and fans and conducted several moisture tests to determine what could be saved and what needed to be replaced. Likewise, workers also tested the attached apartment units and the contractor checked the tightness of all the NCA units’ water head sprinklers the next day. Arnett characterized the incident as a fluke and is confident it will not occur again.

Fortunately, the living room furniture did not get wet, and the bedroom furniture had not yet arrived, according to Assistant Director for Housing and Residential Life Lisa Train. Still, all of the outlets and emergency devices needed to be replaced, as well as the sound insulation above the ceilings, the damaged ductwork, some drywall, the interior trim, the carpet and the third-floor heat pump.

At press time, Arnett was unsure of the monetary cost of the damage, explaining it was difficult to estimate. “If that was a new room, we’d be hanging full sheets of drywall,” he said. “[In this case], in some instances it’s patching drywall; some of its full sheets. So we’ll know when it’s all done what the cost is. I just don’t know yet.”

The four seniors expected to live in the unit ラ Robbie Sellers, Carter Walker, Perry Minella and Ben Kress ラ were all notified of the water damage promptly, according to Sellers. Since then, he’s been happy with the communication between ResLife and his housemates, who have all been placed in temporary housing throughout North campus. “I was really happy with the way we were informed and it was totally clear that it wasn’t anyone’s fault, and that they were doing the best they could in the situation that was given,” Sellers said.

According to Arnett, his team hopes to finish the unit in early October, ideally before October break. At press time, they still need to paint the drywall, replace the trim, install the carpet and replace the heat pump. Additionally, the unit will undergo another series of inspections before opening to students.

Overall, Arnett is happy with his team’s response to the unprecedented situation. “When events like this happen, you’re not measured by the event because you had no control over it,” Arnett said. “You’re measured by how you respond. And they responded quickly.”

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