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Powell Library to remain under construction for seismic safety till early 2024

The construction of Powell Library is pictured. UCLA plans to continue construction on Powell through winter quarter. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

By Elizabeth Brady

April 27, 2023 11:36 p.m.

Powell Library will remain under construction for the next eight to 10 months following a restructuring guided by UCLA’s new seismic rating system.

The reconstruction began in November and will continue through early next year, following UCLA’s seismic safety review procedure. Skanska USA Building Inc. won the bid for the $17 million construction contract, according to the Construction Journal.

Construction on the second floor has closed the area. Other remodeling work also blocks the main outdoor passageway to Powell from Kerckhoff Hall, forcing students to take detours, such as one through Janss Steps.

Powell was first built in 1929, receiving additions to strengthen the building seismically in 1957. In January 1994, the magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake damaged the ceiling of the main reading room in the library. Now, steel beams will be placed on the ceiling to increase the structural security of the building, according to the UCLA Library website. The beams will not be visible once construction is complete, according to the website.

(Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)
Powell Library is pictured behind a sign laying out the seismic improvements planned during construction. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

The university also intends to add gender-inclusive and accessible occupancy restrooms on the ground level as well as a more accessible south building entrance, according to the Construction Journal.

Peter Hendrickson, the associate vice chancellor for design and construction for UCLA Capital Programs, said in an emailed statement that the current remodeling project seismically improves Powell in compliance with UC policy as well as California building codes. This was done through upgrading its accessibility, fire systems and overall safety for students, he added.

“The project outcome would be a safe and updated facility to serve the campus academic mission for the foreseeable future,” Hendrickson said in the statement.

According to the UCLA Capital Programs website, the UC and California State University systems recently worked with the California Department of General Services to create a list of criteria for seismic performance for Powell’s structural update based on California buildings code for earthquake resilience. On a scale of one to seven measuring building earthquake resilience, Powell was estimated to have a rating of five or six from the seismic safety review, indicating that structural changes must be made to the building as only a rating of one through four is considered compliant.

Students and staff have mixed feelings regarding the construction, citing inconveniences on campus.

The construction is necessary, but it takes away from students by restricting their access to the library, said Melanie Cabrera, a second-year public affairs student who works security at the library.

(Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)
A sign reads "No Library Access" outside of Powell Library. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

Cabrera said some students feel as though they can’t study in Powell because of the reduced amount of available space.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Can I go up there, or is construction still happening?’” Cabrera said. “It affects them in terms of where they have to study, and when or if there is not enough space in the reading room.”

Alejandra Rodríguez, a fourth-year dance and political science student, said her walk takes an extra few minutes to go up Janss Steps because of the detours, which she said may also affect accessibility.

“For me, it might be a five-minute walk longer or I might have to take a different route, but for people who have different accessibility needs, … how are they going to access – where do they have to go? Is their way longer than ours?” she said.

Rodríguez added she has been pushed to find new study spots because of a lack of space. In her exploration, she found that the ground level is her current preferred place to study.

Nevertheless, students said they are glad the university is making improvements to ensure the building’s structural integrity.

“I’m glad they are renovating it because of earthquake requirements,” Rodríguez said. “I’m glad to know that the building won’t fall on us.”

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