Around 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning, a pipe broke at the North Quad Residential and Academic Complex and began flooding student living spaces, classrooms and common areas, resulting in the cancellation of classes and partial evacuation of the building.
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According to Ken Campbell, North Quad’s maintenance mechanic, a broken joint pipe on the building’s fire suppression system was responsible for the flooding. The break occurred in the East Stairwell on the fourth floor of the building, he said. When the pipe lost pressure, the system automatically turned the water pump on to add pressure, exacerbating the flow from the three-inch pipe.
Campbell estimated that “thousands and thousands” of gallons poured from the pipe before it was turned off 20 minutes later.
The most immediate concern was making sure that electrical systems are safe after possibly being shorted by the water. After electrical systems were suppressed, the facilities staff will try to repair the damage and assess the value of the loss, which includes several ruined computers. All drywall and ceiling tiles will also have to be replaced.
Campbell speculated that it would take at least a month to repair.
In an e-mail sent to The Michigan Daily at 11:50 p.m. on Thursday, Peter Logan, spokesperson for University Housing, wrote that all of the approximately 100 students affected by the flooding were accounted for and had alternate accommodations for the evening. Most students had been placed in other rooms in North Quad and emergency spaces in Cambridge House. Although “unlikely,” Logan added that if any additional students were found to be in need of housing, they would be placed in Mosher-Jordan Residence Hall or Northwood Apartments emergency spaces.
“All students were confirmed communicated with to assure they are secure for housing tonight with cots and linen,” Logan wrote. “We will continue to monitor their needs as well as those who chose to not be accommodated by us.”
Some students on the “dry side” of floors three and four were able to be placed back in their rooms while restoration work continues.
Although the University had considered placing students in the Executive Training Center at the Business School, Logan added that this option was not necessary.
Laundry had been removed from affected rooms and residents have received information about picking it up from the North Quad Community Center shortly.
“Lots of people in Housing, Student Affairs, Security and Facilities are doing everything we can to resolve this as quickly as possible for our students,” Logan wrote.
Earlier on Thursday, Logan said the fourth floor and below had been closed and about 100 students will be displaced at least for the near future.
Above the fifth floor has been given the “all clear” by officials and the elevator has also been deemed safe for use. Students currently have access to these areas of the dormitory.
According to an e-mail sent to students in the School of Information from their dean, Jeff MacKie-Mason, all classes in the building were canceled on Thursday.
In an interview later on Thursday, Logan added that students would not be compensated for personal items damaged or destroyed by the flood. Residents will have to file claims with their parents’ homeowners insurance or independent renter’s insurance in order to receive compensation for their loss.
At the earliest, most students who live on the third or fourth floor of the building will be allowed to move back into their room on Saturday or sometime next week. In the meantime, residents will be allowed to return to collect their personal belongings while restoration services continue.
Students who have classes in North Quad should check department websites for information about alternative classroom assignments.
Moisture was seeping through the ceiling and other fixtures in the building as instructors and faculty tried to determine the best course of action. In pictures sent to The Michigan Daily, water is seen flowing into a classroom and hallway.
LSA senior Adam Kleven was in a class in North Quad at the time of the evacuation and said people were making noise in the hallway before anyone in the room was aware of the flood. When the instructor went to investigate, she saw the water creeping down the hall.
“It got pretty bad at one point; the water went pretty much across the whole room,” Kleven said. “When the water started creeping into our classroom, our teacher gave me a number to call … The guy on the phone started laughing.”
At about 11:25 p.m., maintenance staff told the class to leave the building. While exiting, Kleven described water flowing freely down the staircases and across the hallways.
North Quad opened for academic and residential use in fall 2010. Commanding a price tag of $175 million, it is also the newest residence hall at the University. At full capacity, the building houses 450 upper-level undergraduate students and has facilities for television production, performance areas, classroom and seminar spaces, and a large computer lab.
Mildew and mold will likely be an ongoing concern during the extensive restoration process. The value of damage to the building has not yet been assessed by the University.
The Sweetland Writing Center is also based out of the basement of North Quad. It has since been relocated to the Modern Language Building because of water damage.
Three firms worked on different facets of the project and it is unclear at this time which firm was responsible for installing the fire safety system that caused the flood.
Correction appended: A previous version of this story misidentified Adam Kleven's class standing.