Foreshadowing the costumed chaos about to rip through the streets of Isla Vista, destruction visited campus Saturday afternoon when a 4,000-pound segment of Bren Hall’s ceiling collapsed.
The fallen portion, estimated to be 20 by 25 feet, had been suspended above a lobby area outside one of the building’s elevator entrances. One-inch shot pins meant to support the ceilings of the first and second floors ruptured from the concrete deck when the structure failed. Although no one was harmed during the accident, UCSB officials are thoroughly inspecting the structure and the cause of its cave-in.
Campus Sustainability Manager Jordan Sager said the university construction crew’s main priority is to contain the situation.
“Safety is the number one concern at this point,” Sager said. “We don’t know if there’s potential for this to happen at other locations in the building.”
Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher said Bren Hall should be reopened tomorrow although classes in the building are cancelled indefinitely.
“The architects, structural engineer and contractor for the building have been on site,” Fisher said.
Even though the definite cause of the collapse remains unknown, some demolition workers have attributed the accident to the use of two inches of stucco to coat the ceiling where there is supposed to be one. Some have also suggested that another potential cause of the ceiling break was the use of fly ash in lieu of pure cement to construct the building. Considered stronger than conventional concrete, fly ash can nevertheless fail if not given sufficient time to dry during initial setting. Construction workers are now cutting down the ceiling’s lower areas.
“We are removing additional areas of the ceiling that we feel would be prone to similar failure,” Fisher said.
Bren Hall was completed in 2002 by the Soltek Pacific Construction Company, which also built the Life Sciences Building and conducted renovations to the De La Guerra Dining Commons.
In 2002 Bren Hall’s School of Environmental Science & Management became the first laboratory structure in the nation to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum Award and was again granted the same award in 2009.
However, Sager said architectural safety is not one of the five categories examined by the LEED certification. There was no discernable link between the building’s eco-friendly design and the collapse, he said.
“I can say with 100 percent certainty that the collapse is not due to the building’s environmental benefits,” Sager said.