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MailTribune.com
  • RCC to replace faulty glass with sheet metal

  • Glass panels lining the atrium of the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in downtown Medford will be taken down and replaced with metal panels next month, officials said.
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  • Glass panels lining the atrium of the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in downtown Medford will be taken down and replaced with metal panels next month, officials said.
    In February, a manufacturing defect led to the sudden fracture of one of the glass panels, and it crashed down from the third story, hitting two students.
    The lobby area below the atrium is still closed, but a request for proposals to remove the glass and replace it with metal should go out within the next two weeks, said Grant Lagorio, director of operations and facilities for Rogue Community College.
    The building is operated and maintained by the college in partnership with Southern Oregon University.
    Lagorio said the estimated cost of the work is $60,000.
    A report from Seattle engineering and architectural firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. said the glass failure was caused by the presence of nickel sulfide in the panel, which was manufactured by Atlanta-based Oldcastle Inc.
    The firm's report, released at the end of March, says nickel sulfide is a raw material that can be unintentionally introduced into molten glass during production. Cumulative heat exposure later can cause the particles to expand and crack the glass. Microscopic examination of the glass particles revealed the material, RCC officials said.
    One of 41 tempered-glass panels that line the three-story atrium and a stairway inside the building fractured March 10. The 3-by-6-foot panel rained glass fragments on people and furniture in the first-floor lobby 40 feet below. A female student was treated for minor cuts at the hospital and released. A male student was bumped on the head by one of the falling fragments but declined medical treatment.
    "The area is still roped off. It's still not safe to be in there because the panels are still hanging," Lagorio said.
    The college decided to replace the glass panels with sheet metal in order to avoid the possibility of another glass panel failing, Lagorio said.
    "Not only could it be faulty, but somebody can actually break it," he said. "We thought it was all-around better to put some type of different material up."
    The panels are designed to deflect smoke from entering the building's upper-story corridors in case of a fire.
    Lagorio said work to remove and replace the panels is expected to begin in June after spring semester classes end.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.
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