Penn State

Penn State team seeking long-term solution to secure bricks

A black nets wrap the base of the overhang of Penn State’s Millennium Science Complex. In 2015, the Office of Physical Plant noticed some of the bricks on the multimillion-dollar building were cracking. The damaged bricks were removed, and the nets now act as a safety percaution in case of future damage.
A black nets wrap the base of the overhang of Penn State’s Millennium Science Complex. In 2015, the Office of Physical Plant noticed some of the bricks on the multimillion-dollar building were cracking. The damaged bricks were removed, and the nets now act as a safety percaution in case of future damage. adrey@centredaily.com

Penn State’s Millennium Science Complex, a research facility built at a cost of $225 million, opened in the winter of 2012. It’s a huge, angular building — with one noticeable problem.

In 2015, the university’s Office of Physical Plant spotted hairline cracking and fracturing on some of the bricks on the building near East Pollock and Bigler roads.

The damaged bricks were removed. Today, about 20 long, black nets remain secured to the bottoms of brick sections while a team investigates what to do.

Some of the nets wrap the bases of the large overhangs that loom over walkways. Others are higher up on the structure.

The 275,000-square-foot building was designed by world-renowned architect Rafael Vinoly, and built by Whiting-Turner Co. It’s one of the largest buildings on campus.

Susan Bedsworth, a marketing and communication specialist for the Office of Physical Plant, said OPP is “working with the Millennium Science Complex project team and industry experts to permanently remediate the issue.”

Bedsworth said the department, including senior project manager Dick Tennet, was not granting interviews about the nets.

A possible solution mentioned by Bedsworth is an aluminum extrusion cap that would replace the netting.

She said the main function of the nets is to act a safety precaution, not to keep the bricks in place.

The Office of Physical Plant conducts routine inspections to determine if additional safety measures might be needed, she said.

The nets can be overlooked. Paul Wirtz, a junior studying electrical engineering, said he has walked by the building daily for two years and enjoys admiring it.

“But each time I looked I didn’t see the nets, so I think they did a great job with dealing with that issue,” he said.

Greg Merchlinsky is a Penn State journalism student.

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