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New Springfield school building floor problems on mend

10/10/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

LAKEMORE — Floor vibrations and cracks discovered on the second floor of the new school building for students in seventh through 12th grades in the Springfield Local School District under construction are disappearing.

The vibrations, felt while walking over some concrete floors, were found in spring, along with the cracks, and district officials have been working to determine who is at fault and how to fix them. While the fault issue remains in litigation, district officials are moving forward on the fix.

In recent weeks, two of 50 tuned mass dampers (TMDs) that reduce the vibrations were installed under the floor of the room with the worst problem, according to Springfield Superintendent William Stauffer.

The TMDs measure 36 inches wide, 36 inches long and 18 inches deep and weigh between 881 and 1,102 pounds each, according to Stauffer. They are bolted and welded onto steel plates and mounted below the floor, spanning four joists, and they are hidden from view in the room below above the ceiling tiles, he added.

“They are a lot smaller than I expected, and they really do work,” said Stauffer.

The TMDs being used were invented by an engineering professor at the University of Dayton and are designed to suppress or absorb vibrations, according to Stauffer. The devices use coil springs and viscous dampers and can be customized to each application.

A total of 50 TMDs are being used to dampen the vibrations in 26 rooms, with about 10 installed to date.

“This was not a Band-Aid approach to the problem,” said Stauffer. “There is a dramatic difference in the before and after.”

Stauffer demonstrated that during a tour of the new building Oct. 4. He bounced on the floor in a room without the TMDs and on one that did have them installed, showing the vibrations in the room where the TMDs had been installed was virtually undetectable.

Stauffer explained the cracks discovered in the floors also are being fixed — by beveling the edges, filling the cracks with epoxy, sealing them and then coating the entire floor with a fiberglass mesh to conceal the cracks. During the tour, he also showed a room where the crack repairs had been completed, and they were almost invisible.

Stauffer stated that during a special meeting Oct. 2, the Board of Education approved an amendment to the school construction budget, increasing it by $1.3 million to pay for these fixes. He said the district is in litigation to determine who will ultimately pay for them.

“Despite the problems we have encountered, this will be a magnificent facility,” said Stauffer.

During the tour, Stauffer pointed out numerous features of the new building, some of which include:

  • a community room where board meetings will take place;
  • an auditorium with a seating capacity of 650, designed with band classes next door for easy access during performances and an entry designed for less noise disruption from audience members, an outside ticket booth and a separate outside entry, and a multi-use space behind the stage. It is located next to the cafeteria, where refreshments will be available after a show;
  • separate junior high and high school gym/basketball courts with noise absorption design and a press box for the high school one;
  • large-group work areas set up outside several classrooms;
  • a pad for a future amphitheater located at the end of the junior and high school wings, with the space between the two wings to also be developed for possible use;
  • a cafeteria with no deep fryer — all food will be served baked or steamed;
  • main office access from the main entry hallway to allow improved interaction with students and visitors;
  • slant-top lockers to prevent junk from sitting on top, and several made just for students in wheelchairs;
  • science labs with outdoor exits for easy access for students doing outdoor studies; and
  • motion-activated light sensors, blinds located inside windows and large screen monitors for group learning in several rooms and hallways.

High school students are scheduled to move into the new school after returning from the two-week holiday break in December, and junior high students will move in mid- to late January, according to Stauffer.

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