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City official: Upper floors of new BJC building are 'buckling'

City official: Upper floors of new BJC building are 'buckling'

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Rendering of new BJC buildings

Barnes-Jewish Hospital North (left) will go up at Kingshighway and Forest Park Avenue. The building on the right is the planned Children's Hospital expansion.

ST. LOUIS • The city building commissioner says it appears the top floors of the north tower of BJC HealthCare’s new building under construction near Kingshighway and Forest Park Avenue are “buckling,” and he is asking the engineer in charge to verify that the floors were built correctly.

Building commissioner Frank Oswald said Friday that it appeared the floors were buckling on the sixth through 12th floors in the north tower.

“They need their design professional to say that it’s all been done and in a manner that’s safe and protects the public,” Oswald said of the floor design.

An occupancy permit will not be issued until the engineer is able to verify that the flooring system was built according to the plans, he said.

The severity and potential impact of the issue are unclear, as is whether the problem is related to the design or construction.

In 2012, BJC hired three construction companies to lead the massive project. Alberici Corp., Clayco and S.M. Wilson Co. formed ACW Alliance and were awarded the $1 billion project. Architecture firm HOK designed the project.

The opening of the hospital expansion had been planned for early 2018. The first phase calls for the construction of two 12-story towers along Kingshighway. One will house an expanded St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and the other will provide more space for Siteman Cancer Center and other surgical programs.

Scott Wilson, CEO of S.M. Wilson, insisted Friday that the floors in the north tower were not buckling.

“There are areas on some of the floors where additional leveling is occurring, and I can assure you that is also a very normal process,” he said in an email Friday afternoon.

Wilson also said that there were no structural issues with the building.

“We want to make it clear that in a project of this magnitude there are modifications that occur throughout the construction process,” Wilson said.

When asked Friday about the building commissioner’s move, Bob Clark, CEO of Clayco Corp., said simply, “That sounds ridiculous to me.”

HOK also responded with its own statement Friday afternoon, appearing to downplay the building commissioner’s concerns.

“We continue to meet with city inspectors and can state with certainty that the floors have not buckled and that the building is structurally sound,” said Lance Cage, managing principal with HOK.

The city’s latest actions come after months of concerns among the parties about the floors in the new building. There have been attempts to level the floors, but Oswald said Friday that his inspectors had found the issues were ongoing.

“There was still some buckling in the floors. It’s from the 6th floor up,” Oswald said.

After a meeting this week with inspectors, engineers and architects within the building department, they felt it was necessary to go back to the engineer on record, Oswald said.

“They won’t be able to use it until they get a design professional to verify it’s safe and that it’s done correctly and that the fix has been made,” Oswald said.

Oswald said this type of request was not uncommon but didn’t happen all the time. He would not speculate on what might have caused the flooring problems.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital board member Tom Hillman told the Post-Dispatch this week that construction issues had been brought to the board’s attention.

He said that there were a “variety of issues” but that the “most evident is the leveling.”

Rumors have been circulating for months that the floors in the building are not level. An IV pole placed on one of the floors rolled away, according to one report.

June Fowler, spokeswoman for BJC Healthcare, took issue Friday with the term “buckling” in describing the floor problems. “There is some unevenness,” she said. “There are levelness issues, and those issues are being addressed.”

When Clayco’s Clark was contacted in June about the floor problems, he explained that there was some “disconnect” between the owners, architect and builders. He said that the builder group “is confident that all the floors were to the design specifications.”

“All the parties are working closely together to find the best solution and the most economic process to get that solution,” he said then.

Samantha Liss • 314-340-8017

@samanthann on Twitter

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