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Aug. 31, 1998

Repair work began this morning on the University of Virginia’s University Hall and will continue for 12 hours a day, six days a week, until the building is stabilized.

Temporary repairs should be completed in October, allowing the building to be reopened for use in time for the fall basketball season, which begins Nov. 3 with an exhibition game against Yugoslavia.

University Hall — which houses U.Va.’s basketball arena, locker rooms, storage space for sports equipment for more than 20 teams, and offices for about 50 athletic department officials — was closed unexpectedly by University officials on Aug. 12 after a routine inspection of the 33 year-old building revealed 32 broken cables in the metal tension ring that anchors the roof to the walls.

On Friday, Aug. 28, University officials received a preliminary summary of results from an engineering analysis of broken wires taken from the University Hall roof support structure. The report reassured officials that the building can be safely repaired.

The technical summary of the engineering study, submitted by Ron McAlpin, a materials engineer with Bryant-Lee Associates, concluded: “The results-to-date indicate the wires are functioning as designed, and are individually failing in a ductile mode after corrosion has reduced their area by about one-third. Based on the fracture analysis and mechanical testing results, brittle failure of the wires remaining in-place is not anticipated.

That is, the wires retain adequate ductility for continued service, provided that repairs to provide additional load-bearing support can be undertaken in the near-term.” Robert P. Dillman, chief facilities officer, noted that the tension ring was originally engineered to support more than the required load, providing an extra margin of safety.

The temporary repairs will do two things: 1) stop corrosion of the existing cables by covering them with grout; and 2) provide added support to the roof’s existing structure by wrapping a cable numerous times around the outside of the cylinder at the roof line.

The work, which began this morning, includes filling the existing concrete and wire band with grout by drilling several hundred holes into the band and pumping in the grout. At the same time, workers will be drilling into the 32 exterior columns and mounting brackets through which will be pulled 25 wraps of very high-strength stranded steel cable. These wires are manufactured with a red coating so they will be visible wrapped around University Hall at the roof line over the louvers and just below the existing band. They will provide added support for the structure and will be removed when a more permanent fix can be put into place, which is likely to be several months after the basketball season ends.

The permanent fix mostly likely will consist of a replacement band wrapped outside the existing one, according to Dillman. The temporary fix is being handled as emergency construction, while the permanent fix will go out to bid under standard state procurement procedures.

University officials have contacted state Department of Planning and Budget representatives to seek state approval of the emergency repair project. No precise estimate of the cost of repairs is available, but University officials expect the cost to be in excess of $2 million. The University has performed regular inspections of University Hall over the past several years. The current inspection, conducted by University and consulting structural engineers began Aug. 3. The inspection involved chipping away the concrete covering of the steel band in several places to examine the underlying tension ring. The ring is composed of a band of 670 individual wires of 3/16″ diameter that encircle the dome, holding the structure together at the roof line. The construction is similar to a wire band holding together the staves of a barrel.

Visual inspection showed at least 31 wires broken in one place and one wire broken at another location. Dillman submitted a sample of wires for analysis by two engineering firms. Preliminary results from the first report, on strength and metallurgy conducted by Bryant-Lee and Associates, has been received. Severud Associates, of New York, the building’s original design firm, conducting a second study, is analyzing the inspection data to help determine the extent of the problem.

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