Cockrell Hall repairs to reduce energy loss and save University money

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The ECJ building is currently undergoing renovations that could potentially save the University $40,000 in energy loss per year. The brick on the side of the building will be replaced with a light-weight metal pane. 

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Ongoing repairs to the Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall engineering building, located on Dean Keaton Street, will potentially save the University approximately $40,000 in energy loss expenses per year.

The plan started in July as a safety project to remove hazardous bricks from the outside wall of the building, but through the demolition process, the contractors found places in the brick where air-conditioned air was escaping from the building. Tony Guzman, project manager from Project Management and Construction Services, said the discovery of the leaked air was unexpected, but they’re addressing the problem with the current construction project.

“We’re stopping the air from inside of the building by identifying the places to install the air barrier to seal,” Guzman said. “These repairs added to the cost of the project.”

Guzman said in approximately one and a half years the project will pay for itself in conserved energy savings.

In 1972, when the 10 story building was designed, bricks were suspended from above the windows and over time the brick began to split, making it a hazard to people.

“ECJ is a well-built, strong building, but there were a couple of design details that worked really well for the first 40 years and then we started understanding that there were long-term problems,” Guzman said. “We identified the problem well before anything fell. And as soon as we understood there was a problem here, the University took immediate action to stabilize the conditions that were found.”

Guzman said the project is currently working on taking down the brick and covering it with a lightweight metal panel.

The total project cost for the building is about $1.7 million and is anticipated to be finished by May 2014, but the outside construction is subject to weather delays. Construction superintendent Mike Coxe, said safety is important in the project because of the height of the building and said project managers constantly check the weather for rain and high wind speeds.

“Every morning, before anybody gets here we go through and do safety inspections,” Coxe said. “We have a full inspection checklist that we go through and check.”

For example, Guzman said construction was called off Wednesday morning because of rain. He said it did not rain in the afternoon so the work day was lost but said the construction managers work to incorporate these delays into the future schedule of the project. 

Jinying Zhu, assistant professor who works on the fourth floor of the building said the noise hasn’t interfered much with her classes.

“One day it was really noisy when they were working right outside my window, but besides that it has been OK,” Zhu said.