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Friday, June 8, 2012

Worst Case Scenario

The Vertebrate Collection cases are state-of-the-
art, and didn't allow water to enter and
damage specimens.
As mentioned before, the Vertebrate Collection suffered a near-disaster. The good news is that it appears that no specimens were damaged, in large part because of the state-of-the-art cabinets that were installed when the Berry Center was constructed.

So here's what happened.

Although it may not seem that way right now, the roof beneath the Berry Prairie is also state-of-the-art. It’s made of two layers of impermeable membranes, which sandwich between them a layer of wire (it looks like window screen) and a layer of felt. Beneath the membranes are two layers of closed-cell foam insulation sitting atop a concrete deck, which in turn is atop the steel beams that are visible in the collection room. 

In case you’re wondering what the window screen-like layer is for, it’s the leak detector. It’s possible to attach a sensor to measure resistance in the wire. High resistance means moisture, and the screen should make it possible to pinpoint the wet area. When the roof was installed, some wires were left sticking out, to which the sensor could be attached. However, there would be no way to know there was a leak, and a need to attach the sensor, until water started dripping (no one envisioned flowing) into the room below. So, the decision was made to install permanent sensors that would detect moisture between the membranes before the lower one was compromised.

And here our tale of woe begins.

The installation of the leak detectors, which hadn’t been completed, was begun incorrectly, resulting in penetration of both membranes (see the slits in the picture below?). The first time we turned the irrigation water on, there were big holes in the roof, resulting in water flowing down to, and along the concrete deck, until it plunged into the collection room through the gaps where the drain pipes go.  Think of a draining bathtub.

Worst Case Scenario
The three craters left from digging up the problem areas are still
visible on the green roof.
The holes in the membranes have been mended, but we’re left with a saturated leak detection system and felt layer between the membranes, and a potentially wet concrete deck. We don’t know how wet the concrete is, and are waiting for a contractor to test it for us. But we do know how wet it is between the membranes because we could feel it with our hands. And we know that the only way to dry any of it is to remove at least the top membrane. And to remove the membrane, we have to remove everything above it—the entire Berry Prairie.

We’re waiting to hear what the plan is, and when it will be instigated. I think Brenna and I are hoping to discover this was all a bad dream and we’re about to wake up…

 Written by Dorothy Tuthill, Berry Center

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