Unstructured Soil Cracks Kimpel Hall
Construction projects on McIlroy Avenue, which have caused Kimpel Hall to shake, have not caused further damage to the already aged and cracked building, officials said.
During the 2006 fall semester, UA officials received complaints that the floors in the journalism department were apparently sinking, said Mike Johnson, associate vice chancellor for facilities management. Officials with facilities management discovered that the foundation was established on a bed of clay, causing the floor to sink, he said.
Repairs were made to the cracked walls and sunken floors that year, he said.
Since the construction, there have been shifts, but none that are dangerous, Johnson said.
“Over the past few months we have noticed some movement in that area,” Johnson said. “Fortunately the walls that are cracked do not bear any weight. Therefore the structural integrity of Kimpel Hall is not being affected,” he said
Officials will make any necessary repairs to damaged walls, Johnson said. “For now we will just fill in any of the cracks of any of the walls. Eventually, when its necessary we will re-install the floor like we did back in 2006,” he said.
There has not been any significant movement of the foundation, Johnson said. “We have not seen any significant movement this year. Other than filling cracks, we will not have to make any serious repairs,” he said.
These recent damages are not related to this year’s construction, Johnson said.
“The clay bed beneath the bottom floor of Kimpel is still drying out and shrinking. This was to be expected when we made repairs back in 2006,” he said.
The clay foundation beneath Kimpel Hall has also not been affected, officials said.
“Clay is not prone to vibration. Construction vehicles and tools should not have any effect in terms of shifting the clay underneath the building. All movement of the clay is due to the drying process of the clay,” Johnson said.
Many of the rocks in this area, such as shale and limestone, are rich in clay, said Tom Paradise, geoscience professor.
“Clay absorbs water like a sponge. More than likely, the drying process of the clay is what caused the floor to sink in the first place,” Paradise said.
Clay is not an optimal material for use in building construction, said Bob Beeler, associate director for design and construction. Over time the clay dried out creating a gap in-between the foundation and the floor, causing the floor to sink, Beeler said.
Students that have seen the cracks first-hand, and have heard rumors about Kimpel’s structural integrity were relieved to hear the building stands little chance of crumbling.
“I did hear rumors that Kimpel was beginning to collapse. I didn’t doubt them since this is such an old building. I was worried since a couple of my classes are in Kimpel Hall. It’s good to know that the damages aren’t in any of the load bearing structures of the building,” said Jacob Evans, senior restaurant and hotel management major.
Facilities management workers put motion monitors on the cracks to determine if they were increasing in width. The cracks stopped growing for a period, and then started again, but the shifts are not serious, Johnson said.