Emory Report

May 8, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 32

Bowden Hall begins to dry off

by Eric Rangus

The Big Bird-yellow, hot air-pumping tube is gone. The fans have shut down. The moldy, saturated stench of a wet sneaker has finally dissipated.

Life is on its way back to normal at Bowden Hall, but it won't completely return to pre-flood status until the end of the summer.

"The cleanup and drying out is complete," said David Tate, assistant director for plant operations. Reconstruction of the building, however, is only just beginning.

On the evening of Sunday, April 2, a connector on a sprinkler main broke on the building's third floor. Contractors had been working on the plumbing. When the flow of water was finally cut off about 25 minutes later, standing water was two inches deep in some places, and practically no part of Bowden Hall escaped completely dry.

The building suffered an estimated $500,000-$1 million of damage, plus damage to many personal items. Ceiling panels, wall siding and office carpeting all were effected.

A look from the outside shows no ill effects, though the inside is a slightly different story. Throughout the building, wallpaper has been peeled away and random ceiling panels are missing. Also, the bottom four inches of sheetrock-along with its vinyl covering-has been removed so that the inside of the walls could be dried out. But the chaos and unpleasantness of the days immediately after the flood has disappeared, as has the unpleasant odor.

The halls of Bowden Hall now have something in common with a great deal of the rest of the University: they're under construction.

Bids from three contractors are due this week, and repair work will begin following Commencement. Tate said the work will take about two months to complete. Classes have been moved out of the building for the summer, but a lot of effort will be slated for evenings and weekends so that professors are inconvenienced as little as possible.

"Much of the work remaining is cosmetic in nature," Tate said.

Facilities Management is responsible for getting Bowden Hall back in shape, but much of the work repairing materials damaged inside the building has fallen into the hands of the Preservations Office of Emory Libraries.

Floods are not uncommon occurrences at Emory, according to Janice Mohlhenrich, preservation coordinator, but the office hadn't tackled a single project as large as Bowden Hall for several years.

Of the close to 500 books (many of them library books) and other materials given to the office, only seven were not salvageable.

"We were able to look at things that professors thought were irretrievably lost, but we looked at them and said, 'Sure, we can fix this," Mohlhenrich said.

About 10 staff members and students helped out with the drying process, devoting dozen of hours to performing often tedious work (like unspooling microfilm to dry out each individual frame).

"People were great; all their other work was set aside for this project," Mohlhenrich said. "Even working weekends, nobody sulked in the least."

Materials were either air dried by standing them up on a flat surface, or by freeze drying, which turned water into ice crystals. Air drying the books wasn't exactly a warm-weather process, however. The office temperature was lowered to a consistent 52 degrees to ward off mold, and fans hummed constantly to speed the drying process.

It all worked, though, as 90 percent of the materials brought in have been dried out and are ready for pickup.

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