Tower renovations set to start next spring

By Holly Schubert

Holmes Student Center tower renovations will not begin at least until the spring due to approaching winter weather and the need for plan approval by the Board of Regents.

Conrad Miller, assistant to the director of NIU’s Physical Plant, said NIU will deliver a report to the Board of Regents’ Sept. 15 Facility Committee meeting.

The report will contain several alternatives or packages for building materials and deal with general use of the HSC tower. Miller said the Regents have to approve any plans before renovations can proceed on the tower.

Gerry Orr, an architect for Ware and Associates, said that the project essentially will have to be rebid, although there has been no confirmation of a deadline date for resubmitting bids. He said his firm is modifying details and drawings in an attempt to bring the project in under the $1,955,000 originally budgeted by the Regents for the project.

Orr said the key to bringing the total cost of renovations down would be use of a prefabricated anchorage system for the tower’s stone surface. This would require less on-site labor and would decrease cost substantially. Steel anchors used to hang the stone on the building’s frame would be affixed to the stone at the quarry site rather than having tower construction workers fasten the anchors themselves.

Another possible cost-cutter would involve using a prefinished metal roof in place of the copper specified in the original plan. Orr said the prefinished metal roof is just as durable as the copper, would last “forever,” and also would cost less than the copper.

Although no additional stones or brick fragments from the tower’s exterior surface have been found on the ground, the fenced area west of HSC between the tower and Neptune Residence Hall will remain intact.

Miller said he is comfortable with the interim repairs that have been made on the tower and believes they are sufficient to withstand the winter season. However, a consultant not associated with NIU will investigate the tower’s condition and decide whether the interim repairs are sufficient for the winter.

Miller stressed that repairs to the tower will not affect the Huskie Bus system. “We’re totally committed to the bus system. We don’t want to interfere with the bus routes,” Miller said.

He said his office is looking into possibilities for making the fenced-off area more convenient for pedestrians and people waiting for buses, but nothing definite has yet been planned.

HSC tower renovations are necessary because brick fragments from the tower’s outer shell began to fall off the exterior surface last year, posing a hazard to pedestrians below. Deficient construction methods, combined with DeKalb winter weather contributed to the deterioration of the tower’s surface.

The project originally was set to get underway last June, but several delays have pushed the project back. First, NIU extended the deadline for contractors to submit bids, pushing the starting date to August. Then the bids came in $1 million over the estimation and budgeted amount.