Gen Huard and Marie Lahar
On the surface, the new Arts and Allied Health building looks beautiful. However, many problems have arisen since it opened in the fall. Some of the building’s downfalls are mere nuisances. Others are potentially dangerous.
The wooden bridge outside the front entrance is tricky to navigate because when it rains, the Brazilian Walnut surface gets slippery. A carpet mat was laid on the bridge’s walkway during winter quarter to curb slips-and-falls.
When the rainwater freezes during the winter nights, ice forms on the walkway. After a freezing night, exposed wood on the bridge often is roped off, leaving only the carpet mat available for passage.
“The bridge is really dangerous for those who are prone to slips and anyone with a disability. It’s a problem that should be fixed immediately,” Hannah Gilmore said.
The mats only allow a narrow path for students crossing the bridge. During the rush between classes, the mats are crowded and students have a difficult time passing each other.
“The AAH building bridge gets really slippery and ices over. The school has been kind enough to place mats down for people to avoid falling, but wouldn’t it be easier if they had merely chosen better material to build it out of?” Kevin Hackett asked.
Once these students walk over the mats, they enter a building that is spacious. The foyer may look wonderful, but what about the unused space?
“We have crowded classes and hanging glass art, but they didn’t plan for more classrooms. They left a lot of empty room,” Dave Mumbach said.
Not only is the building’s entryway nearly empty, but the glass walls have caused problems. These walls not only lead into classrooms, but there also are windows on the second story of the building.
These floor-to-ceiling glass walls and large windows can look deceptively invisible to the unfamiliar student. Rushing to class on the first day of the quarter and slamming into a glass wall could be a mess for a new student or a text-a-holic who isn’t looking where he or she is going. One student walking near the Student Media Center recently was seen bumping into the glass wall.
Students can see the open space and the glass walls, but they can hear the next problem. In the halls of the new building, any sound can echo. The echoes have become a disturbance for students in classes.
It’s sometimes difficult for students to hear instructors lecturing because of the loud noises carried throughout the building.
“The acoustics are really terrible…you can’t speak up without your voice getting lost,” student Serah Norwil said.
Another noise that often is heard is the music seeping out of the “sound proof” practice rooms. The rooms have been designed and padded to not let sound out, but the doors are not sound proof. When students practice, the sound reaches the hallways of the building.
Another flaw in the practice rooms is the temperature control. Stringed pianos are placed next to exterior wall windows. If the cold temperature from the outdoors affects the piano too much, it can create an out-of-tune instrument. Fluctuations in temperature expand and contract the strings to create unpleasant sounds.
The practice rooms have been installed for several of the college’s music groups. Not many people mind the music through the building, except if there are two groups playing at the same time.
These groups often are scheduled to practice at the same time in the building. This can be distracting to the groups who fight to hear their own sounds.
Another noise concern is the hand dryers in the bathrooms.
The powerful Xlerator hand dryers can be heard in classrooms near from the bathrooms.
“Hand dryers interrupt our classroom and it’s hard enough to hear,” student Rachell Brant said.
The hand dryers’ website advertises how they can dry hands in 10 to 15 seconds.
However, these deafening hand dryers operate at 70-72 decibels. For comparison, a Boeing 737 take-off is about 75 decibels.
“The hand dryers are ridiculously loud and they hurt if you have a scratch on your hand, they rip the skin off,” Rebecca Raden said. “They’re a waste of energy, electricity and skin.”
The building has underutilized rooms. The theater is prepared for plays and a ballet/drama classroom is left to sit because no drama classes are offered on the Puyallup campus. Several classrooms behind the theater sit empty.
Even though these rooms aren’t used, the materials in the rooms are expensive.
With costly pianos and equipment in the practice rooms, they are often locked. This causes a similar situation for classrooms with computers and keyboards. In most cases, a music instructor must be located and a request made to open the door. This not only wastes the time of the students but puts unnecessary burdens on the instructors.
Another aspect of the new building that gives reason for worry is the doors. The automatic doors have been trapping students who use wheelchairs. According to Jim Taylor, director of facilities, since construction the doors have been having problems.
“We had to make some modifications to the doors earlier on after construction but believed problems had been resolved,” Taylor said.
The doors are set for a time but weren’t staying open that long. The entrance doors stayed open for 5.3 seconds when they are supposed to stay open for 20 to 30 seconds. Both buttons are on the outside of the double doors.
Therefore, students attempting to get through both doors are presented with insufficient time and it’s common that they become trapped between the doors.
According to Russell Mulligan, who uses a motorized wheelchair, the entrance doors aren’t the only issue.
“Every five or six times out of 10, the bathroom doors close. It seems like the new building has had a lot of door problems,” Mulligan said.
Taylor and Patrick Murrell, access and disability coordinator, said they were not aware of the handicap door problems until recently. Taylor says college officials want to make sure the doors meet and maintain the 20-second standard.
Another irritant students experience is the oddity of the new building’s red and green buttons in the second-floor study rooms.
Most students don’t know what they are for but upon pressing them realize that they automatically open four floor windows. The mechanisms that operate the windows are comparable to the hand dryers when it comes to noise. They grind and growl for a while before opening the windows.
However, just as students have said, the building still needs work.
“Well, I’d definitely have to say that the bridge could use some work. On numerous occasions I’ve found myself losing my balance while crossing the bridge. On the whole it hasn’t been too bad, but one can never take too many precautions when it comes to people and their safety,” student Jacob Christensen said.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost