Fallen panel causes middle campus closure
Facilities management remains unsure why the panel shifted, but plans to secure every one. | Thecla Li / THE CHIMES
Working to increase safety after a clip malfunction over a month ago, facilities management will reinstall the panels under the canopy by Eagles’ Nest and Common Grounds within three weeks.
A SLIPPED CLIP
Originally installed in spring 2016, the panels did not have support screws present as in other construction pieces since the screws would have remained exposed. The lack of these screws allowed the panels to shift, causing one to come unhooked from its clip and fall to the ground shortly after midnight on Feb. 6. No one was injured, and Campus Safety quickly closed the area while facilities management built plywood tunnels to allow the businesses to continue operating.
“Thankfully, there was nobody under the panel at the time when it fell, but certainly there could have been, and we’re just so grateful that nobody was harmed or injured,” said Brian Phillips, director of facilities management.
The subcontractor which conducted the initial installation refused to accept responsibility for the occurrence, according to Phillips. Biola’s general contractor found another to conduct the reinstallation, which will include the support screws. Biola will pay over $7,000, splitting the total cost with the general contractor.
The absence of the screws allowed the panels to shift off the clips. However, discussions between facilities management and contractors have not produced a definitive explanation as to what external force caused them to move, according to Phillips.
“We’ve talked about everything from seismic to wind, and I don’t think anybody has a smoking gun theory on why that happened. I don’t think we’ll ever know. But the solution we’re putting in place will certainly prevent that from happening again,” Phillips said.
A LOUD BANG
Sophomore psychology major Grace Wu was working at Common Grounds when she heard a loud bang from outside. She investigated the noise as others also crowded around the area to look at the fallen panel. After the incident, she no longer felt safe under the canopy.
“We had to close early,” Wu said. “I think if one ceiling fell, probably others had the possibility of falling, which is why there’s tunnels now.”
Eagles’ Nest and Common Grounds remain open despite the closure of the outdoor seating area. Facilities management will attempt to complete the installation with minimal impact to the businesses, though their entrances will eventually have to close for some time during the reinstallation, according to Phillips.
Despite this goal, Wu believes the closure has affected the number of customers entering Common Grounds.
“Some people don’t even know that we’re open,” Wu said. “They thought we were closed off since the ceiling is still being repaired.”
Junior business administration major Kyle Nunes also believes the caution tape and plywood tunnels has dampened the appeal of the area.
"I think the only thing that’s affected is that I enjoy doing homework under [the canopy] sometimes, so that a little bit. And yeah, I think Commons actually isn’t as attractive as it would usually be to me,” Nunes said.
The area will soon return to normal as facilities management works with an architect and the installation subcontractor to execute a plan. Phillips plans to never again utilize the clip system without also including the support screws.
As students continue to enter Common Grounds through a wooden tunnel, Wu remembers the danger of the incident.
“Thank goodness no one was there, or else,” Wu said.