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Repairing NWC’s Cody Hall dorm could cost millions

A firm investigating problems at Northwest College’s Cody Hall says a decades-old decision to place dirt against the building appears to have caused the current trouble with moisture. A firm investigating problems at Northwest College’s Cody Hall says a decades-old decision to place dirt against the building appears to have caused the current trouble with moisture. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

A landscaping method used by a contractor likely saved money in 1984, but now its results will likely cost Northwest College millions of dollars in residence hall repairs.

The Northwest College Board of Trustees learned on Monday that it will cost approximately $1.5 million to $2 million to repair Cody Hall due to damage from water seeping into the exterior walls, gypsum board and insulation. If a moderate update is included in the project as recommended, that would add another $2 million to the cost estimates.

Tearing down the building and replacing it with a new, similar building would cost an estimated $11-14 million.

Trustees expect to consider all options for Cody Hall — including the possibility of tearing it down and not replacing it — when more information is available.

Cody Hall’s 90 rooms are designed for double-occupancy, so it can house up to 180 students. The college’s current enrollment remained flat this year after a downward trend for several years, so college administrators decided to close the hall this year in order to investigate the building’s problems thoroughly.

Dan Odasz of Plan One Architects, the firm hired to coordinate the investigation project, outlined progress so far.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction,” he said. “We’re really taking a hard look at what happened.”

Six other companies are helping with the $110,150 information-gathering project: Northern Industrial Hygiene (air quality testing), Safetech Inc. (investigative demolition), Engineering Associates (site survey), ACE Engineering Inc. (mechanical, electrical and plumbing condition report), Interteck Architectural Testing Inc. (building envelope study) and Inberg Miller Engineers (geotechnical exploration).

The moisture problem is the longterm result of dirt that was pushed up against the exterior walls of the residence hall when it was built, Odasz said.

“I suspect they had a bunch of dirt left over and put it up against the building [rather] than haul it away,” he said. “It was cost-effective at the time, but after 33 years, the waterproofing measures are deteriorating, and now water is entering the building.”

The moisture has damaged and promoted mold growth inside the walls.

Dave Plute, NWC physical plant manager, said some steel studs have rusted through as well.

Odasz said it appears the seepage is coming from above the ground — from rainfall, snowdrifts and the building’s sprinkler system — rather than from groundwater.

Test holes drilled 7 feet in the ground around the building show no groundwater is present at that depth. Another hole will be drilled under the building to see if there is any water there, Odasz said.

Needed repairs to Cody Hall include:

• Re-slope the landscaping around the building to prevent further damage. The envisioned landscaping correlates well with the college’s landscaping plan, Odasz said.

• Construct a foundation drainage system.

• Remove, re-design and re-install a new irrigation system to minimize water from spraying or collecting near the building.

• Temporarily shore and remove the existing exterior brick and concrete block to replace the damaged building materials. New steel studs would be placed next to damaged ones, then they would be screwed together.

“The structural stud damage is not that significant,” Odasz said.

• Removing and replacing damaged wallboard.

• Squirt in closed-cell spray foam could be used to insulate the building. “It won’t absorb water, and it would add energy efficiency,” Odasz said.

• Rebuild the exterior masonry perimeter walls at ground level. Add exterior architectural veneer.

• Replace neoprene flashing with more effective waterproof sheeting at a lower level on the walls.

• Caulk window and door heads, jambs and sills.

Odasz noted that the outlined repairs don’t include anything for replacing or repairing any damage that might still be found to mechanical, electrical or plumbing systems.

Plute said the board also should be aware that, “in three to four years, we will be looking at spending a considerable amount on roof replacement” on Cody Hall as well.

Odasz also noted that identified repairs only fix the damage; they do not change the hall’s appearance or provide any updates.

“What if we do a little more work, spend a little more money and make it a new Cody Hall?” he said. “Not a lot of big-dollar stuff, but give it a fresh look throughout.”

A moderate upgrade could:

• Replace flooring.

• Replace old lighting with LED lighting. (Plute said energy savings from LED lighting would pay for the cost of that upgrade within three to four years.)

• Replace interior wallboard with new drywall; Odasz said the interior walls in many rooms have peeling wallpaper.

• Make upgrades to common areas.

Dennis Egge from the Wyoming State Construction Management Division agreed that a repair project on Cody Hall should include an upgrade. The public is aware of the problems with the building, and “they want to be able to see the changes,” Egge said.

Egge told the board it’s unlikely that the Wyoming Legislature will provide state money for a residence hall project.

If Northwest College wants to give state funding a try, “you have to have everything together for a real clear picture,” he said. “Take a look at a dollar amount and set that as what your goal is. Get an architect on board, do a level II study and get design work done, and get a good solid budget.”

“This is going to take time,” and it won’t be ready for the 2018 Legislature, he added.

NWC President Stefani Hicswa said, “As I listen to you, I’m hearing you say, go ahead, submit it.”

Egge replied, “You’re going to be over $1 million, so either way you will have to submit it” for approval, regardless of state funding.

Meanwhile, “Work with your local legislators, see how comfortable they are with that. There might be a possibility for 2019.”

Hicswa and Trustee Carolyn Danko noted the Legislature approved funding in the early 2000s for a residence hall project after a college experienced a similar problem with water damage and mold.

Ashley Hall — essentially a twin of Cody Hall — also has some damage, but it is minimal at this point, Odasz said. Some repairs were made prior to the start of the school year so the building could be occupied.

However, Plute said drainage and other problems will eventually have to be addressed for Ashley Hall as well, Plute said.

“Ashley is not as bad, but Ashley Hall will be Cody Hall five years from now,” Plute said.

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