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Durable qualities cost more

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I am writing in response to Dr. Thompson's citizen's view column in the June 7 Review. I feel compelled to respond to some of the misconceptions lest they become accepted as being accurate and embedded in people's minds. I need to emphasize that these are my own personal opinions (many of which are based upon the reports of the consulting architects and engineers which are available to the public) and do not reflect the views of the council due to the fact that we have not yet held a public hearing on these matters.

Dr. Thompson refers several times to city hall being 10 years old when in actuality it was constructed 22 years ago. (More proof that time actually does fly.) The mechanical (HVAC) equipment that has to be replaced in the foreseeable future is nearing the end of its life expectancy. It would not be unanticipated that equipment of this nature would have to be replaced after 20-plus years of use.

The electrical system is inadequate because, 25 years ago when the building was being designed, no one foresaw the intensive use of electronic equipment and computers that is now required for conduct of public business. It has also been recommended that the roof needs to be replaced. Here again, membranes that are used to waterproof flat roofs in Oregon have to be replaced when they reach the end of their usefulness. Twenty years is not an unusual length of time for replacing membranes on flat roofs.

Dr. Thompson asks what the seismic condition of the Safeco Building is. Safeco Insurance Co. had the building retrofitted to meet current seismic standards before it was purchased by the city. Seismic standards for buildings have been altered substantially during the last 20 years. Engineers studying earthquakes and their effect on buildings have devised new methods for making buildings more structurally sound. I honestly do not know whether city hall could have been constructed in a more seismically-sound manner or not but city council at that time was not prone to spending money that was not absolutely necessary. The consultants have also recommended an upgrade in the building's security systems. Security protections have also changed with the passage of time in light of safeguarding public facilities against terrorists' threats.

The sole problem with city hall that definitely could have been avoided is the moisture that is penetrating the exterior vertical surfaces of the building. The building is coated with an Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS). This product is also called synthetic stucco. It refers to an exterior finish that's been used in European construction since shortly after World War II. The majority of repairs in Europe were performed on buildings that were constructed of stone, concrete or brick. North Americans began using EIFS in the 1980s, initially applying it to commercial buildings and then to residences (mostly wood-frame buildings). It was later discovered that use of EIFS on wood-constructed buildings led to significant leakage problems unless the flashing was redesigned in a substantial upgrade.

I am informed that city councilors at the time did not want to spend the extra money that would have been required for brick and steel construction. They were acting on the premise that it was their duty to save the taxpayers money. Similar choices were made by former Lake Oswego school boards when the original Lake Oswego High School and Lakeridge High School were first constructed. We have in our recent experience three good examples of how trying to save money in construction of public facilities backfires.

My father always said, 'If it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right.' That concept is ingrained in my subconscious. I agree with Dr. Thompson that public buildings should be built to last more than 20 years. However, we all need to realize that it will cost more up front to achieve those durable qualities.

Roger Hennagin is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council.