Old limestone falls from HSC

By Matt Michalek

Once again, the Holmes Student Center has decided to remind NIU how old it is by dropping a chunk of stone off of the tower.

Last week, a six-inch diameter piece of limestone fell off the east side of the tower, landing on the roof of the student center.

James Harder, vice president of Business and Operations said, “The stone that fell off last week is nothing to be unduly concerned about.”

Conrad Miller, project manager at Architectural and Engineering Services, said the stone that fell off had absolutely no relation to the earlier student center recladding project.

“When the building was originally constructed, it was covered with brick and limestone panels. The stone that fell off was part of the original limestone covering that was 25 years old,” he said.

In the fall of 1987, large sections of the original brick covering started to fall off, landing in front of the Pow Wow cafeteria, in the King Memorial Commons and on the roof of the student center.

To protect pedestrians from falling bricks, a barricade was erected around the south and west sides of the tower.

After much deliberation on how to fix the problem, it was finally decided to remove the brick covering and reclad the student center with limestone panels.

The project, which also included the addition of the pyramid roof and which cost more than $2.4 million, was completed in December 1989.

“We had an engineering firm, Hansen Engineering, go up on scaffolds last Thursday to examine where the piece came off,” Miller said.

“The preliminary report from the engineering firm was that this is an isolated case. The old panels are secured to the building with pins, and one of the pins had been installed at the wrong angle. It took 25 years for the pin to work itself loose and cause the piece of stone to fall,” Miller said.

Hansen Engineering has not completed its final report on the problem, but it has outlined several problems in the preliminary report, he said.

“They found that water had leaked behind the panels, which in itself is not unusual. In the new construction (the student center recladding project) we added weep holes in the panels to allow the water to drain out, the old panels do not have these holes,” he said.

Because the water was not allowed to drain, the metal lintel at the top level of the windows has rusted and needs to be replaced, Miller said.

“Overall, I think the recommendations in the final report from Hansen Engineering would be to replace the chip that fell out, install weep holes in the old stone, recaulk some of the joints and replace the lintel,” he said.

“I would estimate that the total cost of the project would be around the $10,000 range. As of today (Monday), we haven’t checked the north, west and south sides of the tower, so we may find something else, but right now the project would be in the neighborhood of $10,000,” Miller said.

“The stone that fell was part of the original construction, not part of the new renovation,” Harder said. “It was an isolated incident that did occur and we expect no other incidents.

When I first heard about the problem, I was immediately concerned with the western elevation, above the bus stop. I wanted to make sure there was no danger to students,” Miller said.

“Now that I know what the problem is, I am sure there is absolutely no danger to anyone. I would be willing to stand under there myself,” Miller said.