November 9, 2012

College finds flaw in new academic building

Work on SUNY Plattsburgh academic building will need to be redone


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Completion of a new building on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus has been delayed, in part, as work that the college judged inadequate is redone. 

According to SUNY Plattsburgh Vice President for Administration John Homburger, one of the structure’s exterior walls was not constructed according to specifications, prompting college officials to request the wall be rebuilt. 

“There really wasn’t a safety issue, per se,” Homburger said. “It was purely workmanship.

“It was obvious that the workmanship was not at a standard that was acceptable to us.”

Located at the corner of Draper Avenue and Cornelia Street, the academic building was designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects and is being constructed by the Pike Company, based in Rochester.

It will be the future home of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Department of Computer Science and School of Business and Economics.

The $14.2 million project is funded by the five-year plan of the SUNY Construction Fund.

The setback, combined with other construction-related delays, has pushed the building’s substantial completion date from the end of this month to mid January 2013. 


Concerns about the adequacy of the building’s exterior wall, Homburger said, arose over the past couple of months as it was taking shape.  

College officials, he noted, found it didn’t meet their visual expectations and also had also not been constructed to specifications when it came to through-wall flashing.

SUNY Plattsburgh Capital Project Manager Richard Larche explained that through-wall flashing catches water that may enter the interior of a wall and dishes it up from the back surface to the front surface of the wall and then outside. 

Without properly installed through-water flashing, he said, there is a potential for water to build up in a wall’s interior, necessitating future repairs. 

“If you don’t address those issues, you live with them, and that’s what we have grown to get much better at,” Homburger said.

“By doing it properly, it reduces the potential for maintenance in the future.”

However, according to Homburger, the Pike Company was reluctant to fulfill the college’s request for a new wall, as it felt the workmanship met construction-industry standards. 

“The fact is they felt that the workmanship was fine,” he said.

Resolving the issue took time, he added, as several people were called in to look at the wall, including officials from the SUNY Construction Fund, who agreed that the wall did not meet specifications. 

Ultimately, the Pike Company agreed to tear it down and has begun to reconstruct it. 

”When we don’t get listened to in a reasonable way, we’ll stand our ground, and that’s what we did in this case,” Homburger said. 

“The most important thing is keep the project going, and that was the right decision everybody made.”

A representative for the Pike Company declined to comment. 


As of now, the rebuild comes at no additional cost to SUNY Plattsburgh; however, Homburger added, the Pike Company could file a claim stating that the college is responsible for some or all of the cost of reconstructing the wall. 

“It could end up in a claim that they felt that it (the first wall) was fine, and then we would argue with them that it wasn’t fine,” he said. 

The actual cost of the rebuild has not yet been assessed, though Homburger noted it’s likely not a great deal of money. 

Other factors contributing to the delay in the building’s completion include modifications having to be made to the structure’s design and the placement of functions throughout the building. 

“All of those things happen, and sometimes they’re no one’s fault, sometimes they’re oversights, and sometimes they’re just by design,” he said. “And they’ve all kind of slowly accumulated to this point now where we have lost time.”

It was originally anticipated that SUNY Plattsburgh’s Computer Science and Business and Economics faculty would move into the new building over the college’s winter break in December and January and that classes would be conducted there beginning at the start of the spring semester in 2013. 

However, the college now plans for faculty to move in over the spring break in mid March, with the first classes likely scheduled there in summer and fall of next year. 

“It’ll be there, and it’ll be essentially empty for a couple months waiting for us to occupy it,” Homburger said. 

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