author: Taylor Balfour | news writer
Building facing much needed repairs
Only two weeks before students began piling into La Résidence, the University of Regina’s residence unit attached to the Language Institute, the fire sprinklers caused a flood on the sixth floor.
“It was a joint on a fairly high-pressure water line that just gave way,” Thomas Chase, the university’s Provost and Vice-President (Academic) of the U of R, said. “It’s hundreds of gallons of water every minute, but they got in there very quickly.”
The pipe that burst was connected to the university’s fire sprinkler system.
“These sprinkler heads, depending on the building, they can put out 60 gallons a minute each,” Chase explained. “The idea is to suppress any fire very quickly by basically flooding it out. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a fire, you’ve got a flood.”
Within the first two hours of the flood beginning, campus services were on the scene, already beginning to take control. “I’m so impressed with the way the residence services team responded quickly, facilities responded quickly,” Chase continues. “There were dryers in there within two hours or so.”
Much of the quick response time was thanks to the university’s Housing Services team.
“Because it was summer, there was (sic) only 25 students living there, and because the break happened on the sixth floor, very few actually got wet. The fifth floor was completely empty,”explained Bettina Welsh, the Director, Student Affairs Operations of Housing Services. “We did have seven students on the fourth floor and their belongings got wet. That night we had to relocate students. They took their toothbrush, their pajamas, their bare necessities for the night,”
“By the next night we had all their belongings out, we had them out. We had them either in their temporary room and working with them on if they wanted a room change. We weren’t sure of the damage at that time, it had only been 24 hours, so within one day we had the folks that were completely wet out of the rooms.”
However, students that remained on upper floors who did not have their things wet are being placed differently.
“We’re still working on the ones that were in the upper floors because their stuff wasn’t wet, and some of them are travelling so we’re waiting for them to come back,” Welsh explained.
“We hired Jay’s Moving because the elevator’s out of commission, so Jay’s Moving has been helping them move their stuff out either to their temporary room, because we were able to get them a room right away, or to their permanent fall/winter room if they wanted a change immediately.”
“The evening that we had to move everyone with their wet belongings we couldn’t get a moving company, they were too busy because it was one-day notice, so we had housekeeping, student staff, our maintenance staff, and other people in facilities help move those students,” Welsh said.
“It’s a bit of a shock and students need help, especially when some things are wet. We had bags and containers for them so they could put their wet stuff in and we provided laundry carts so they could wash their belongings.”
If there is a bright side to the pipe’s burst, it’s that the water’s range didn’t get very far.
“The water coming down the tower fortunately didn’t affect any of the academic operations,” Chase explained. “The Department of French, La Cite, the French Bac program which is all on two, and all of the classrooms on one, and the main floor wing were untouched.”
Luckily, according to Chase, students that needed to be relocated had new options thanks to the new opening of the U of R’s College West residence.
“These things never happen at a good time, but given that we had space in the residences and with College West having just reopened, we were able to relocate those people. Bettina’s team did a great job moving quickly and helping quickly in these difficult circumstances.”
U of R’s College West campus, having its grand opening this fall, claims that it’s residences are “some of the most modern student accommodations in the country.”
Their website also claims that the interior design was made “with student life and student health in mind.”
As far as renovations go for La Résidence, the elevator will be the deciding factor on how long it’ll take.
“We do know the elevator is going to take some time because it’s an old elevator,” Chase said. “The elevator is as old as the building and the parts for it will need to be remanufactured, so it’s going to be out of service for some months and, therefore, we can’t put people in the tower without a working elevator, it’s just not possible.”
“Definitely one semester. Worst case scenario, two,” Welsh explained. “But we don’t know until the elevator repair people are able to secure parts and start working through a timeline on repairs.”
However, Welsh also stated that the elevator being out of commission is going to affect workers making their way to repair upper floors as well.
“We’d be hesitant as well to repair six, five, and four until the elevator is working. For the construction workers to use those narrow stairs isn’t really safe for them either,” Welsh said. “The elevator is our biggest unknown right now.”
Housing Services is trying to use the flooding to their advantage as best as they can.
“Every year for the last three years we’ve been repairing a floor,” Welsh said.
“We still had five and four to do, and those are the floors that got wet. So if possible, we want to take this advantage – we already have students moved out, we already have paint and probably flooring happening – so we’d like to take the opportunity to refresh the tubs, the sinks maybe some of the light fixtures.”