Retrofitting for Alexander Hall

Workers will start a $6.6 million construction project on Alexander Hall this month, but Sophomore Corinne Valencia, who lives next door in Moyer Hall, doesn’t mind.

“I have an 8 a.m. [class next quarter],” said Valencia, referring to the 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday work hours. “So hopefully it’ll wake me up.”

Louder construction won’t start until 9 a.m. on work to seismically retrofit and add other additions to Seattle Pacific’s oldest and original building, said David Church, assistant vice president for facility management.

Two years ago, Seattle Pacific hired an engineering firm to evaluate the 120-year-old building’s integrity in an earthquake, Church said.

Church emphasizes that no one, including the engineering firm, claims that Alexander is unsafe.

However, Church did say the university decided it would be best to retrofit the building “sooner than later.”

When asked if Alexander would do worse in an earthquake than to newer buildings on campus, Church said, “It will certainly perform better after the retrofit. We realize it’s not in the condition we’d like it to be in.”

Currently, Alexander is made of a brick exterior that’s several bricks thick. There’s also an interior foundation and wood frame.

Church said each floor is held up by wood framing secured into the brick exterior.

“Over time, brick and mortar loses integrity,” he said.

The existing interior frame will be taken out and replaced with a steel and wood frame, Church said. The interior foundation will also be replaced, he said.
While evaluating the building, Church discovered each floor of Alexander is a different height.

The first floor is 11 feet tall, the second floor is 13 feet tall, the third floor is 11 feet tall, and the fourth floor is nine feet tall.

“How buildings were built 120 years ago is different from how they’re built now,” Church said. “The way they’re designed and built is different now.”

In late spring and early summer, faculty and staff were moved out of their offices in Alexander and relocated to an office complex near Nickerson Street. and Queen Anne Avenue North.
Church said he hopes to move everyone back in by September 2014.

Church said the university decided to retrofit Alexander in part because the City of Seattle is considering requiring it for older brick buildings that aren’t reinforced. These buildings would be required to have steel reinforcements that meet modern building codes, according to the city’s Department of Planning and Development website.

The city hired two consultants to evaluate these requirements and it’s not yet been determined if they will become mandatory.

Part of the improvements to Alexander will include an elevator. Church said the university isn’t required to install one but called it “the right thing to do.”

Church said an elevator would make the building more handicap-accessible.

“We’ve spent millions on accessibility,” Church said.

Church said he plans to meet with students who live in Moyer Hall in January and ask them about their concerns with living so close to a construction site. He also said he’ll work with Residence Life staff to make sure Moyer residents are accommodated.

“I can’t think of a year I’ve been here where we haven’t done construction next to where someone was living,” he said.

Sophomore Janel Crouch, a Moyer resident, said she’s not concerned about the construction noise that could take place on some weekends to keep the project on schedule.

“That stuff doesn’t bother me,” she said.

Crouch said adding an elevator is important to allow more students to access the building.

“You have to make everything convenient for everyone,” she said.

This article was posted in the section News.
Cory Minderhout

News Editor Cory Minderhout is a senior journalism major.