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Saturday, March 02, 2024 — Houston, TX

WRC commons roof undergoes repairs

Workers are pictured on top of the Will Rice College commons roof completing repairs. Amelia Davis / Thresher

By James Cancelarich     1/30/24 10:13pm

Roofing repairs are currently underway for the old Will Rice College commons. According to senior facilities engineer and project manager Matthew Hoffman, 7,250 square feet of roofing is being replaced, and the project is expected to be completed in four weeks.

“All campus roofs are audited/evaluated on an annual basis,” Hoffman wrote in an email to the Thresher. “This type of roof has an average life expectancy of 20 years. The pre-existing roof was 25 years old; therefore, it was scheduled for replacement this year.”

Boyuan Zhang, the facilities committee head at Will Rice, said that the project was entirely under Housing and Dining’s discretion, and Will Rice does not have much involvement with the repairs.

“It’s a fairly simple situation. The roof is old … and the [private dining room] is experiencing minor leaking,” Zhang said.

However, he noted that the construction has been distracting for students.

“During lunch, … they were hammering down asphalt … and one of the cages around the sprinkler … fell down,” Zhang said. 

Zhang said he also heard of students complaining about the smell of the asphalt being heated.

“It’s Valero’s commercial solution, so it’s not bad for you. It just smells weird,” Zhang said. 

Shreeya Madhavanur and Brett Barron, both Will Rice freshmen, described some disturbances from the roofing work.

“We were studying in the [private dining room] and the machine noises were so loud it felt like the roof was going to fall down,” Barron said. “I don’t mind it. I think we all just get used to it.”

“We decided to leave when some paint from the ceiling started falling on us,” Madhavanur added.

Will Rice senior Annie Xu said she noticed a strange sound coming from outside the commons one morning which they described as high pitched, while also containing a deep rumbling.

“Somehow it is just so loud, and when I put in earplugs, it still was tough,” Xu said. 

They described changing their work routine in the mornings to avoid the distraction.

“I might just have to sleep earlier and wake up earlier,” Xu said.

Xu also said she did not receive any notifications or warnings about the repair project.

“My college coordinator didn’t know what was going on, my [chief justice] didn’t know what was going on. No one knows why they’re repairing the roof,” Xu said. 

Will Rice College Coordinator Sheren Brunson said that in the fall semester, an email was sent out to students about roofing repair work in the Will Rice area, but no specifics of the buildings being repaired or the timeline of repairs were included.

Hoffman wrote that a notice was issued to impacted students from H&D concerning the roofing repairs.

Xu said there was smoke emanating from a heater that she compared to a car exhaust without a catalytic converter.

“[The construction worker was] sticking his face in it. I felt so bad,” she said. “The whole situation …  makes me question if we have good, safe practices here.” 

Xu expressed their concerns regarding the construction site with Richard Johnson, Rice’s senior executive director for sustainability. Johnson wrote in an email to the Thresher that he forwarded Xu’s email to Facilities and H&D leadership.

Hoffman wrote that an asphalt fumes complaint was registered from a student at Baker College and subsequently the asphalt kettle was moved from the north end of Old Will Rice Commons to the south end. Hoffman also wrote that the asphalt kettle is only expected to be in use for the next two weeks.

“If there are improvements that have happened, I think it’s important to note that some of it has come from student pressure,” Xu said.

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