Asbestos Removal Displaces Most Warner Hall Workers

Warner Hall has been scheduled for asbestos abatement starting immediately and causing the relocation of most of the building?s 150 occupants.
A product of the era of its construction, the asbestos in Warner Hall serves as insulation, primarily in ceilings. Asbestos, a fibrous flame-retardant combination of six crystals, was heavily used in construction from the post-war era until the mid-1970s, when concerns about asbestos being a carcinogen curbed its inclusion in buildings.
Facilities Management regularly tests air quality and surfaces in buildings containing asbestos insulation. Warner has been tested semi-annually for years.
?The [air quality] tests have always come back clean and today still come back clean,? said Cheryl Hays, director of the office of the President.
With the fourth and fifth floors of Warner set for renovation following University Advancement?s move to PPG Place downtown, Facilities Management and the office of the President decided that those floors would undergo complete asbestos abatement. The other floors were to remain open.
Further surface ?swipe? tests showed minor amounts of particulate matter, however, and they decided to eliminate all remaining asbestos in the building, even though the air tests were negative. The abatement was scheduled to coincide with the already-scheduled renovations.
The basement and sixth floor, home to the HUB and the offices of the President and Provost, respectively, will remain open, with access restricted to the basement entrance that connects to Cyert. These floors had their asbestos removed during previous renovations. The recently renovated admissions offices on the second floor did not undergo asbestos abatement during their conversion.
?At that point,? said Hays, ?there was no evidence of a problem,? comparing it to the sixth floor which had water leaks through the insulated ceiling during its last renovation.
Tentative plans for relocating the building?s other tenants were formed at a town meeting on March 1. Once telecommunications are transferred early next week, the office of the Dean of Student Affairs will move to Bramer House, behind the Fraternity Quad, and the office of International Education will be relocated to the third floor of Alumni House, across the street.
?It?s going to be a little crowded, but it will be fine,? said Michael Murphy, dean of student affairs, about the move to Bramer House. Bramer House is among the University?s smallest buildings and currently houses the University?s Media Relations offices.
Perhaps the most unusual move will be that of Undergraduate Admissions. They are being moved to subdivided space in the Highlander dining room. The move comes immediately before one of Admissions? busiest times of the year, as new students are admitted and many make final pre-matriculation visits to campus.
?We?re going to make do. We?re singularly focused on enrolling the class,? said Michael Steidel, director of admissions. ?In the long term of things, it?s a healthier building.?
Undergraduate admissions will need to move again when the pre-college program needs Highlander during the summer, but Steidel added that many of the functions admissions performs are not done from within their office spaces.
The process is expected to last through the end of July. The renovations of the two upper floors and minor changes necessitated by the asbestos abatement on the other three will also be finished by the beginning of the fall semester. The removal of asbestos in Warner removes one obstacle from demolishing the building, which is called for in the most recent master plan. The process of asbestos abatement, however, is not connected to the building?s potential replacement, and is merely additional maintenance.
No worker in the building is at any risk of dangerous exposure that would require prolonged inhalation of particulate asbestos. Any remaining employees in the basement or on the sixth floor have nonetheless been given the option of relocation during the renovations.