Heavy snow and ice on the Trottier roof last week caused structural damage to the building that will be “very expensive” to repair, Superintendent Charles Gobron told the K-8 School Committee last night.
While he didn’t specify how much repairs would cost, Gobron said insurance should cover most of it. There’s currently no timeline for when the repairs will be made.
Four classrooms, the teachers’ lounge and other non-student spaces are closed as a precaution and will remain so until repairs are made, but Gobron said there is no danger. “The roof is not going to fall,” he said.
The damage occurred in the newer wing of Trottier and on a section of roof that was peaked, not flat, which Gobron said surprised him. Facilities Manager David White said the weight of snow and ice on the roof caused roof trusses to shift and fall out of alignment.
The problem was discovered last Wednesday morning, a snow day for students, when a fire alarm sounded in the attic space above the classrooms. After the fire department inspected the area, a structural engineer and a roofing company were brought in. Snow was cleared from that area of the roof by Wednesday evening.
Gobron said the school was closed on Thursday while crews cleared snow and ice off other parts of the roof. “We decided it would be best to close Trottier while we investigated everything just to make sure,” he said.
Gobron said they also had an architect inspect the other three Southborough schools for any damage, but none was found. There was some concern about the weight of snow on the roof of the modular units at Neary, so that was cleared off, but there was no damage to the units.
“We are safe. All the buildings are safe,” Gobron said.
White said they hope to have the Trottier repairs completed as soon as possible, but the work has been delayed because the type of trusses used in the construction are proprietary and only the manufacturer can design the fix. Still, White said the problem is “very repairable.”
White said leaks observed in other parts of Trottier are not related to the structural damage, but rather to ice dams combined with a lack of ice and water shields on the roof. “The leaks will go away as soon as the ice goes away,” White said.
Trottier Principal Keith Lavoie said while closing a portion of the building has been an inconvenience, teachers, students, and parents have all been understanding.
“It started with a fleet of parent volunteers who offered to go up on the roof and clear off snow,” Lavoie said. “When things like this happen, people rise to the occasion.”
Was there a design or construction error?
I just wanted to pass along that I heard a radio story today that the state agency which provides funding for new schools is accepting emergency requests for funds to repair damage from the recent ice and snow.
Also, please make public the name of the person who discovered this potential disaster at the school and through their diligence, averted a disaster!
Mike, it was actually the fire alarm system that detected the problem. In the past several years, “beam detectors” have come into use in commercial buildings with large open spaces. For simplicity……a beam transmitter is attached on one side of the space, a receiver is attached to an opposite point. An infrared beam is shot from the transmitter to the receiver. If something breaks the beam such as smoke, or in the case of Trottier, a shift in the structure, the fire alarm system is activated. Once the fire department arrives, the fire alarm panel provides the zone to check. The firefighters then go directly to the area indicated and check things out. If there is no fire, then they have to look closely for the cause, in this case, structural shift.
Thanks for the correction.
Mike, I heard that piece about funding available for storm/roof damage as well, but on the local news. Definately worth looking into.
Another question to ask. Who was the archetect and contractor and was the building built to support the weight of snow we get here?
Yes! Lets publish the name of the Architect and Builder for all to see. This is a nearly new building that cost us a small fortune. I don’t expect that we will get anything from either party though, maybe our Insurance company can collect.
Small fortune Al? I think a million is a fortune and Trottier cost a heck of a lot more than that.
All Right a Fortune.
Easy Al, how about we first establish the cause before we go about dragging people and their livelihoods into the mud? I would bet that the weight of the snow we have had this year far exceeds any reasonable estimate. If not, then culpability should be determined and assigned. There are limits to what someone, even an expert, can predict. If a meteor dropped from the sky, I bet the roof wouldn’t hold either. I also bet that if town residents, such as yourself for example, were asked to pay tens of thousands more for a roof that would withstand this amount of snow (an amount this town hasn’t seen in decades) they would probably have decided “no.”
This is what insurance is for.
I must respectfully disagree. First, this is not the snowiest winter on record, the winter of ’95-’96 holds that distinction.
Second, I do not believe that the snow loads exceeded the code. We are in Mass Snow Load Zone 3 which has a minimum standard of 35 Lb/Sq ft according to the State Building Code http://www.mass.gov/Eeops/docs/dps/BuildingCode/780036PT3.pdf
Thirdly, this was a very expensive building. My roof (built in the 80’s) has not failed, other modern roof systems in town have not failed. Somewhere in the building there is a nice bronze plaque with the names of the architect, builder, building committee, superintendent etc there for all to see who designed and built this edifice. I think it is perfectly fair to proclaim that Firm A designed the building, Firm B built the building and we are experiencing structural roof failues. These are all facts.
Yes, I assume that insurance will pick up most of the tab and our rates will rise. I hope the insurance company tries to recover some of the money if this was in fact a design/construction failure but I doubt they will have much luck.
John, you are correct that this is how the newer, very modern buildings function. The builder should carry a binder of some sort and insurance should cover a portion. We are in the roofing business–historical commercial. It is not that the argument is whether it is the snowiest winter but rather the amount of snow that is saturated by freezing rain and weighs upon the structure.
That protocol never includes berating the Superintendent of a school system. There is obviously a structural roof situation and that is not the fault of Dr. Gobron
You are correct, the construction of a school building is typically done under the supervision of a school building committee and that committee is typically appointed by the BOS. Once complete the building is turned over to the School Committee.
I don’t see any scenario where responsibility for this falls at the feet of the School Committee and it’s employee Dr. Gobron unless there was some negligence in maintenance which I doubt. I have a hard time faulting a building committee either, they relied on the professional judgment of the firm that designed the building and the firm that built the building which is where, at first blush, I think the responsibility lies unless someone can demonstrate otherwise.
In response to this and your previous comment, I respectfully disagree. To take the action you are suggesting implies negligence when none has been proven. A “first blush” is not sufficient information on which to build an accusation of negligence. To do so would be both unfair and unethical. In this country I thought the whole point is you have to prove guilt not “demonstrate otherwise?”
And carrie is correct. Evaluating the situation is, I am sure, far more complex than just looking at an average snow chart. The article says that a structural engineer was called out to evaluate the situation. Perhaps he or she has the expertise to go beyond the “first blush.”
Negligence is a very acidic word and one should be very careful to toss it about. One of the reasons we carry such a very high level of insurance on many levels–above and beyond what we are bound to carry, is for situations that are way more serious than this. Be thankful that no one was hurt.
When a structure fails there is protocol that is followed. One does not get to decide who the responsible party is, there is a predetermined formula if you will for blame. When the building was built surely no one sat around and said, “wouldn’t it be so fantastic if the roof failed and we had to repair it?” If ice and water was not put down and the roof is not flat then the roofing contractor has some answering to do…..
A structural engineer who has actually seen the roof and structure and done a pull test among other things will be able to determine what needs to be done and what was lacking.
Thank you carrie – a knowledgeable voice of reason.