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Law library moisture crisis

Andrew Bell and Jayce Carrano report

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The Sydney University Law Library has undergone extensive repairs this week in an extended battle against water damage.

The largely underground library has experienced a string of structural issues relating to insulation and water damage for most of its brief life. This includes moisture in the carpeted private study rooms, which require aeration by fans for relief. Wooden panelling on the roof of the library was removed after it became water damaged.

Further, the Turnbull Reading Room (the circular steel and glass spire which forms the architectural centrepiece of the library, pictured) frequently experiences leakage in times of rain, which is managed in an adhoc manner by placement of plastic tubs.

After heavy rain last Tuesday morning, an area of carpet next to the Reading Room was inundated and had to be cordoned off with hazard tape and traffic cones. At the same time, fencing was placed around the above-ground section of the library’s spire.

On Thursday, portable expanding barriers and a scissor lift were brought into the library to began repairs. Using the scissor lift, Construction Services were able to cut away at sections of the board surrounding the Reading Room in the midst of perturbed law students.

Julie Parsons, University spokesperson for Campus Infrastructure & Services (CIS), said there was no significant damage to the building but indicated that “CIS are currently undertaking a systemic investigative approach to detect the source of the leaks and make the repairs.”

Ms Parsons provided the following statement, when asked when staff were first aware of the issue. “The first heavy or persistent rainfall after the completion of a building will realistically test its rain tight integrity. Most rainwater intrusion is noticed only if it impinges on the use of the building and becomes obvious. The staff at the New Law Library advise CIS of any issues as they occur,” she wrote.

The Herbert Smith Freehills Law Library opened in 2009.

The construction program currently in place forms part of a longterm strategy to solve the issues. Ms Parsons indicated that the project incurs no additional cost to the University, as they are being completed as part of the original building contract.

Ms Parsons said repairs to the building will be completed by May 5.

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