$13 million for Thurston: Work costs a third of hall’s value

Thurston Hall’s most recent renovation – which has been ongoing for two years – costs more than one-third of the building’s total taxable value and is the largest exterior building renovation in University history, according to a University spokesperson and D.C. land records.

The building is valued at more than $28 million, according to D.C. property assessment records. Construction costs are estimated at more than $10.5 million, according to building permits filed with the city and obtained by The Hatchet under the Freedom of Information Act.

The bulk of the project involves fixing the building’s brick fa?ade, which has deteriorated over time. More than 1,100 students live in the 75-year-old freshman residence hall, and the University completed the majority of construction before they moved in last week.

A detailed account of the construction in the University’s 2008 Capital Budget puts the total Thurston cost at $13.8 million. Though the initial budget was for $5.4 million, it has been updated to include “the remaining phases of the project.”

“We have not previously needed to undertake such an extensive renovation to the exterior of a building,” wrote Nancy Haaga, director of Campus Support Services, in an e-mail.

This summer, in addition to working on the fa?ade of the building, outside contractors installed new sprinklers in each room, new carpeting in the common areas, new security cameras and new passenger elevators, said Seth Weinshel, a director of GW Housing.

The University was alerted to the deterioration of Thurston’s fa?ade after an inspection found a number of problems, such as places where parts of the foundation had settled unevenly over time and “shelf angles which support the brick were past their useful life and required replacement,” Haaga said.

The University chose Brisk Waterproofing, a masonry restoration company based in New Jersey, to perform the exterior renovations. Most of the construction took place during the summer months, when the building was closed to students.

Workers needed to grind away at the brick fa?ade of the building in order to replace failing mortar. Kevin Chorba, director of the project for Brisk, does not think that the building will require any other major repairs. “The only complicating thing to this project is the schedule. There was no room for error,” Chorba said. He added that the $10 million price tag is not unusual for this type of masonry work on a building as large as Thurston.

The University inspects all of its buildings for the type of deterioration that affected Thurston, and the only other building which should have similar maintenance is the Athletic Department headquarters on 22nd Street, Haaga said.

She added that the construction – though expensive – was necessary.

“This exterior renovation project was not just patching, the building fa?ade was restored to extend its useful life well into the future.”

Some students moving into Thurston early were forced to live in other residence halls because of slightly delayed construction, Weinshel said. “They just needed a little more time to get some of the rooms cleaned and get a little more painting and work done.”

In addition to the $10 million permit filed with the city for the outside masonry, elevator renovations were estimated at $255,000, and new sprinklers at over $500,000, according to permits filed with the city.

Eric Roper contributed to this report.

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