Music students will spend another semester in the inadequate Humanities Building because the $3.2 million renovation to the Music Building faces delays after contractors found surprising construction deficiencies.
S W Allen Construction Inc., the contractor assigned to the project funded by the 2002 Measure A Bond, found fire and seismic hazards in the 49-year-old building.
“We were trying to hold down costs on the project and took an approach that didn’t work out real well,” District Chief Facilities Planner Ray Pyle said. “Sometimes that happens in construction because every project is a prototype. You don’t know what you’re going to get.”
The completion, originally scheduled for June, has been pushed back to early September — weeks after fall 2012 classes begin Aug. 17. According to district data, 355 students are currently enrolled in music classes held in the H Building, which lacks proper acoustic sound-proofing for students to practice.
The music department was forced to move into the H Building in July 2011 and adjust to the lecture-oriented facility’s lack of acoustic sound-proofing.
As part of the 2008 Facilities Master Plan, which would upgrade buildings across campus, the college originally planned to spend $2.6 million to add minor seismic retrofitting to the building and update the recording studio, atrium and recital room located in M-116.
Contractors began taking apart the rooms and discovered large amounts of asbestos, a carcinogen with fibers that can lead to lung cancer or mesothelioma if inhaled.
The discovery led to another structural deficiency — ceilings and vertical walls were not properly reinforced and insulated against fire hazards or an earthquake. Contra Costa College Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King said if a large fire erupted in one of the rooms, it could have passed to the next room because of the lack of insulation across the top of the classrooms.
“The building wasn’t even up to code for (1963) standards,” King said.
CCC Capital Projects Manager Burl Toler said the hazards would have remained undiscovered had the contractors not began tearing apart the building.
The problems could have been discovered if the college used infrared technology, which costs thousands of dollars.
“It just costs too much,” Toler said.
He said the district is unsure if the other buildings on campus have similar problems. If they do, the hazards may go unnoticed until construction crews begin working on them or if a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, hits.
Prior to the work done by S W Allen Construction Inc., the building’s outdated seismic support did not meet the previous standards, King said. The Hayward Fault, an active earthquake fault in the East Bay, runs through the campus.
“Here we are on the Hayward Fault and it wasn’t seismically safe,” King said. “Now if it shakes, it won’t come down like an accordion.”
Toler said delays are normal in construction, but this one was beyond his expectations.
“Once we tore off the insulation, we saw the building was deficient to today’s code,” Toler said. “That past configuration would not have flown.”
As a result, the M Building had to be stripped to its planks earlier this semester.
Contractors are fixing the problems left by the original construction group.
Music major Daniel Ruiz, who spent up to 15 hours a day in the M Building, was shocked to hear about the hazards left by the 1963 contractor. As of press time Tuesday, Pyle did not identify the original contractor.
“That’s negligence and he needs to be hunted down,” Ruiz said with a straight face. “That’s an awkward feeling. I’ve lived in that building for years.”
He said he is not looking forward to spending another semester in the H Building.
“These rooms and the walls suck the sound out,” Ruiz said. “We’re trying to work with what we have.”
Ruiz said vocal and piano practice sessions are often interrupted by sound from students practicing in other rooms or even talking in the hallway — problems he never worried about in the M Building.
“This (H Building) is very crappy and it feels old,” said Ruiz, who has been in the music department since fall 2008.
He said the H Building gets in the way of his practice.
“The practice rooms are limited,” he said. “If one is taken, you’re screwed.”
Music department Chairperson Wayne Organ said students should appreciate the wait because the new building is a major upgrade compared to what the college originally planned with its first $2.6 million project estimate.
“The new building will actually be a 21st century building,” said Organ, who is also CCC’s Academic Senate president. “It’s going to be a very nice building.”
After the building was stripped down to planks, the college approved Organ’s idea to interconnect several rooms in the building to the recording studio to offer a giant sound booth. The upgraded building will also have a small recital hall in M-116 where the acoustic paneling can be adjusted for acoustic and electric instruments as well as vocal groups.
Other upgrades include new bathrooms, handicap-accessible doors and ramps, a box office for receptions and large opaque windows under smaller clear windows in M-110, M-111 and M-112.
King said the process of taking apart the building was labor-intensive for contractors, but will result in a better building suited for music students.
“They tore it from top to bottom. They ripped out the floors, walls ceiling and roof,” King said. “It addresses every need (the music) department has. It’ll be nice when it’s completed.”
CCC Interim President Dan Henry said the building can potentially be finished early, but it would have signs of shoddy work.
“It could be done very close to the beginning of fall, but we don’t want to scramble,” Henry said.
Steve Allen, president and project manager of S W Allen Construction Inc., said after all the delays, his group is working to make the process easier.
“There’s been a lot of delays and design changes but the project looks like it’s on track now.”
Pyle said although classes will not be held in the building during the fall semester, it will be open to recitals and for students to practice in during the fall.
“There will be no reason to keep the building closed completely,” Pyle said. “Anything we install will be available to (students).”
He said the district had no choice but to fix the problems once they were identified in January and students will be happy with the new building.
“Probably three years from now nobody will remember we took an extra semester or a few hundred thousand dollars to finish,” Pyle said.
Music student Daniel Rodrigues will remember.
He said during his time in the H Building, he has not been able to play his instrument because faculty members and other students complain about the disruption.
“I haven’t been able to play the drums. I’ve been told to stop and it’s like high school again,” Rodrigues said. “During class you can hear the pianos going off in the other room. Imagine if it was the drums.”
Instead, he is currently taking a vocal class, which he finds difficult to practice in the H Building.
“We’ve gone bare bones and we’re doing the best that we can,” he said.