U's Marriott Library an Earthquake Hazard

U's Marriott Library an Earthquake Hazard

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Ed Yeates Reporting Engineers are calling for immediate action to keep the University of Utah's Marriott Library from collapsing in a pile of rubble, even in a moderate earthquake. The U says gutting and retrofitting the Library is its number one priority this year, and it's asking the State to fund at least part of the 65-million dollar project.

Though the original 35-year old Marriott Library here still looks great, engineers say its insides - those you can't see - are a disaster in waiting. On the steps of the Marriott Library, emergency personnel today held a mock earthquake drill. The irony, the building overshadowing this plaza is the most likely to come down.

For example, all it would take on the fourth floor of the library is a moderate earthquake, a lateral movement of about an inch. That would sheer the floors from the hollow steel members inside the pillars, pancaking each subsequent floor all the way to the bottom.

Sarah Michalak, Director, Marriott Library: "The floors are only welded to the columns, so just a slight shake will bring the top floor down first and the floors will pancake down on top of each other."

Reaveley Engineers have evaluated the building saying it would take only a magnitude six earthquake, possibly even less, to bring everything down. Since lots of students are there day and night, loss of life would be high.

And it's not just human safety. One first edition of a rare book published in 1482 is worth $100-thousand. Add all the other collections within the walls and you "up" the figure to more than $300-million.

How much will it take to retrofit and remodel the library to make it safe? The U tomorrow will ask the State for $45-million. The U would raise the remaining $20-million from private donations.

In addition to the building collapsing during a quake, concrete panels, each weighing 20-thousand pounds, could also peel off the structure.

Sarah Michalak, Director, Marriott Library: "One of the things we want to try to convey to our staff and users - if you feel it shaking, you need to get away from the building, altogether."

If the State approves its share of the funding, reconstruction and retrofitting would begin July of next year with completion scheduled in 2006.

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