Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Construction woes

From the state of the grounds at my grad school, the motto would appear to be “We must dig!” There was a steady state of construction going at the university, and our lab was no exception. We went through a major renovation where we built a cell culture room and an extension to the lab. During this process, the the air handler for our lab was dismantled and rebuilt on the roof. (Even though we were on the ground floor, we had an outside roof because of the odd shape of the building.)

One winter day, several months after the air handler was finished, I was standing over at the fume hood dispensing something or other. “It’s freezing over here!” I said. “Why is it so cold?” Bitter Guy, whose lab bench was right next to the fume hood, told me to look up. “You see that missing ceiling panel? Do you see that hole to the outside right behind it?”

Apparently, during the moving of the air handler, the construction workers ran out of material or something. So they duct taped a piece of plastic to the huge gaping hole in the air duct which opened directly to outside as a “temporary” fix. Did I mention that the air handler construction had been finished for months? I asked Bitter Guy if he had apprised Building Operations of the problem, and he said the construction guys had told him they were planning to fix it, so he was just waiting.

I shook my head in amazement and headed over to Operations. They sent a guy down to take a look at it, and he was fairly horrified that anyone could call such a job “finished.” He couldn’t believe we had been working under these conditions for so long. But I think what happened is that the people most directly affected by the hole got used to it and forgot it was even a problem, so it took someone with fresh eyes to point out that duct tape and plastic does not insulate from the cold.

At least it kept out the rain. Except for when the rain flooded the pipes and backed up through the sink. Which happened more than you might expect.

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