Drilling arouses Pierce Hall residents from their slumber

By Zach Schwartz

The sounds of construction at Pierce Hall woke up second-year in the College Ana Rocca at about 8 a.m. on October 15. Used to the noise by now, she put a pillow over her head and tried to go back to sleep. As she attempted to return to slumber, she noticed small bits of plaster falling on her bed. A fair-sized hole had been drilled about four feet above her bed. Looking around, Rocca realized that another hole had been drilled in her wall—about three inches from where her head had rested.

“I was a little scared,” said Rocca, who immediately spoke with her resident assistant and filed a work order form to get the holes filled. “This sort of mishap is uncommon, but more generally the construction causes a lot of disruption in student’s lives. It really screws with people’s schedules,” she said, adding that she found it particularly unfair that the International House residents were receiving a refund for problems with their construction project.

Western Waterproofing Company, the corporation renovating Pierce, said it has already completed the “noisiest” work on the dorm, which falls into categories two and three of sound pollution, corresponding respectively to 45 to 60 decibels and 70 to 80 decibels.

Category two constitutes noise expected to wake up a sleeping person, and an example of a category three noise would be a police whistle. One medium-length job involving high-powered drills is rated category four (80 to 90 decibels), which is exceeded only by the “deafening” category—including close artillery fire.

Emily Boyd, a first-year in the College, said that the 8 a.m. starting time for construction severely restricts her sleeping schedule. She said that unless she is absolutely exhausted, she finds it nearly impossible to fall asleep again.

“It’s almost funny at times, it’s so loud,” Boyd said, referring to the jackhammer being used just feet away from her bed. “They’re assuming that we operate on a normal schedule here. So many people stay up until 4 a.m. and plan to sleep until 2 p.m.”

Last week, Western posted fliers around Pierce, asking residents on the east side of the building to close their windows from the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to protect against the danger of dust flying into their rooms.

The company also posted a map, to be updated daily, in the lobby, detailing the location of the work for the day. Residents of Pierce say it is unclear what students are supposed to do with this information, short of making plans to sleep elsewhere.

Cheryl Gutman, deputy dean of housing and dining services, said that the vast majority of current construction projects are those that have been mandated to be completed immediately by law or pose potential life-safety risks.

“In all cases the amount of work that needs to be done cannot be done in just 12 weeks, so it must occur when we are using the buildings,” Gutman said. She added that Pierce in particular requires a lot of work and that renovations should be completed by the end of August.

“International House was not as clear as we were in letting residents know what their experience would be this year, so people felt as if they were not able to make an informed choice when they chose to live there,” Gutman said, adding that the Office of Undergraduate Student Housing notified returning students before they chose to return to Pierce and the other dorms. First-year students, she added, were also informed prior to their arrival on campus.

“We understand that the work is disruptive, but we also recognize the length of time that any one student is seriously disrupted is relatively small as the contractors are moving over the entire building,” Gutman said. “We plan to keep it for as long as possible. We know it needs further repair and are planning for that to occur at some point in the next 10 years, but we don’t quite know when—depends a lot on how big the new dorms are and when they get finished.”