After the student-organized walkouts and appeal to the CSU Board of Trustees, the Long Beach State administration is addressing the numerous complaints about the School of Art facilities.
Last fall, students alleged that the Fine Art buildings lacked sufficient cooling, which caused many students to get sick during last year’s heat waves. They also spoke about falling ceiling tiles, exposed wiring, lack of proper ventilation, and pests like mice and roaches.
Beach Building Services were able to address some of the issues quickly.
They increased the number of pest traps around the buildings and the university issued the School of Art faculty small metal lock boxes to store their food in to keep the pests out.
The ceiling tiles were fixed by having someone go through and add thousands of screw fasteners to every intersecting joint of the ceiling tiles.
Many of the ventilation issues were due to previous building maintenance that was done poorly.
The School of Art director Laurie Gatlin explained the ventilation issues and the planned solutions.
“Our painting rooms have a one-way draft and a wall full of perforated vents, but they had been painted over, and it had reduced the capacity,” Gatlin said. “They’re removing the plates that go over the vents, the painted over plates, they’re stripping those down, priming them, and installing them.
However, handling the Fine Art buildings’ cooling problems is a different matter with several steps and lacks transparency from the university and Beach Building Services.
Beach Building Services put a timeline in place last fall to address the overheating buildings in the School of Fine Art.
For the first step, the university paid just short of $30,000 to P2S Engineering, a Long Beach-based construction management company, to do a survey on the Fine Art buildings’ cooling infrastructure last fall.
So far, Beach Building Services and the university have refused to release that report to the public.
Mark Zakhour is the Associate Vice President at Beach Building Services and is one of the few people who has publicly spoken about the project.
“The report is technical and not written for or easily interpreted by the layperson,” Zakhour said via email, refusing to disclose the report.
The Daily Forty-Niner has issued a public records request for the report.
After the university received the P2S Engineering report, they chose a potential design and estimated the cost analysis of the proposed project. However, details about that have not yet been released to the public.
In March, there was a bidding process to select a company that would draw up the project’s actual designs and new architecture, and the contract was awarded to P2S Engineering.
When asked for more details about the different bidding factions or how much the final bid was, both Zakhour and Gregory Woods, the director of News and Media Services at CSULB, declined to release the information publicly.
“This information is appropriate for a public records request,” Woods said via email.
A public record request for that information has been submitted as well.
From now until August, P2S Engineering will work on the project’s engineering and architectural design. When that’s completed, another bidding process will take place for the construction part of the project.
The construction is expected to begin in October, hopefully ending by August 2024.
Among the proposed plans for the buildings are stand-alone direct expansion HVAC units, but it’s unknown if that means new units on the roofs of the old buildings or the smaller window and door units available.
They will also upgrade the automated building control systems, but it’s unclear if that means new ductwork or upgraded thermostats.
Zakhour also says they will retrofit cooling coils into the existing air handlers and add ceiling fans to some rooms.
One of the biggest problems with the process so far is the lack of transparency between Beach Building Services and the administration and faculty of the School of Art. This has led many to worry that the proposed changes could hinder or disrupt the work done in those classrooms without direct input from the faculty.
“We can’t have ceiling fans in the rooms with charcoal drawings; there would be paper blown around everywhere,” Gatlin said to give a simple example of the issue.
Woods says that that issue has been addressed.
“Beach Building Services is now developing with COTA [College of the Arts] leadership an approach to future interactions as they design this project,” Woods said.
Gatlin brought the issue up to CSULB President Jane Close Conoley during the Academic Senate meeting on April 6. She asked Conoley for more details about the design plans.
“School of Art was kind of on the bleeding edge of this problem because of the age of the buildings and some of the specialized things,” Conoley said. “I think we all have to start thinking about how our lifestyle will change as the planet gets warmer and warmer.”
Gatlin is also concerned about some feedback that she’s gotten. Some students are under the impression that they will return to school after the summer to air-conditioned buildings.
She’s also concerned that the school isn’t fully invested in solving the problem. For one, that the construction won’t start until October.
“It’s going to be a bumpy fall,” Gatlin said. “I’m just not sure the money is in it [project] from the school.”
Even though some initially had concerns that the construction next fall would affect the strained class schedules, Karen Warner, the administrative coordinator for the School of Art, doesn’t think that will be an issue.
“Facilities is really good at scheduling at off-hours,” Warner said. “So, before 8 o’clock or sometimes they come in at three and work until nine. Or on a different schedule on the weekend.”