Five months after flood waters filled the basement of the Binghamton University Downtown Center, causing critical damage to much of the building’s central electrical systems, the UDC is still closed and undergoing renovations that are not likely to be completed until fall 2012.
The electrical equipment housed in the UDC’s lower floor, including the building’s transformer, HVAC system and plumbing and piping, experienced significant water damage as a result of the floods experienced in September of last year, according to Sally Oaks, BU Physical Facilities’ director of finance, resources and long term planning.
The damage requires phases of clean-up, demolition and decontamination. No damage was done to the building above the basement level.
Within days of the flood, the University, with the assistance of the State University Construction Fund and the Office of General Services, began pumping water out of the basement and removing damaged equipment, according to Karen Fennie, Physical Facilities’ communications specialist.
Other undamaged items from the building’s upper floors, including computers, office supplies and selected resources from the UDC library, were relocated to BU’s main campus.
The building is now fully powered by a temporary generator to aid in the cleanup process and was fully heated with the installation of two new boilers, Fennie said.
As of this week, the cleanup phase of the renovation process has been completed.
“All of the equipment that had to be moved has been moved,” Fennie said. “If you were to go down there right now, it’s just a big open space.”
The State Construction Fund hired an outside consultant to redesign the mechanical plans necessary to get the building back up and running. The designs are about 90 percent complete and the University will be issuing bids for a contractor in the coming weeks, Fennie said.
According to Oaks, the extent of the damage caused by the flood last year came as a surprise.
The UDC was built in 2006, the same year that the 500-year flood submerged several parts of Binghamton in up to 4 feet of water. Despite the severity of the 2006 flood, and the UDC’s proximity to both the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers, the building was undamaged.
“We are taking additional precautions this time, just in case we get another 500-year flood in the next five years,” Oaks said.
Some precautions include housing the building’s back-up generator and transformer in enclosed structures outside the building and raising the electrical equipment that will be replaced in the basement on four-feet high beams, where they should be safe from water damage.
Though most of the plans have been set in place, there is still a lot of time before the building will be functional and ready to be reopened, Fennie said.
“Provided everything goes OK, and barring any major complications, the building should be open to students, faculty and staff by fall 2012,” Oaks said.
The project will cost $4 million to $6 million, in addition to the $1 million already spent cleaning out the basement, making for a total cost of $5 million to $7 million. The University is hoping to receive aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help ameliorate the costs. FEMA agents have already toured the facility to assess the damage done, according to Fennie.
“We’re in the very early stages of a multiphase reimbursement process,” University spokeswoman Gail Glover said.