Sinking is usually a term reserved for ships. However, it also applies to the ground floor of both Moudy North and South buildings.
The ground floor of Moudy is sitting on what is structurally known as a floating concrete slab, said Director of Planning, Design and Construction for the TCU Physical Plant Harold Leeman.
The slab has no additional support under it, which led to the sinking.
Leeman said when it rains heavily, the soil expands past its normal size and when there is a drought, such as the one Fort Worth is experiencing, the soil will shrink.
“When the soil dries out, it shrinks and what you would see is the baseboard is probably sitting up higher than what the floor is,” Leeman said. “That’s happened off and on since I guess the existence of the building.”
Leeman said the heavy clay-based soil under the Moudy Building has the potential to expand up to several inches and can be strong enough to push a floor up.
If soil that strong sinks, the floor will settle with it, Leeman said.
Moudy has seen several types of damages as a result of the sinking.
While most of the damage has been in the southwest corner of Moudy South, outside the KTCU student-run radio station, there is damage in other parts as well.
The visually obvious damages include the floor being several inches lower than peeling baseboards, doorframes becoming so constricted the doors are unable to close and severe water damage during heavy rainfall.
Dr. David Whillock just completed his final year as dean of the Schieffer College of Communication. He said he has noticed compromises in the building since he was the chair of the Department of Film-Television-Digital Media in the college from 1995-1999.
Whillock said he would notice his door wouldn’t shut and lock due to the stress being put on the doorframe. There have been several pipe bursts over the past few years as a result of the sinking, he said.
“They’re old pipes but when they’re shifting around, there’s a good chance they [break] off,” Whillock said. “We had one real major burst several years ago. Luckily that room wasn’t being used but it flooded that room and the carpet and all that.”
Whillock said one pipe burst even caused a conference room in the ground floor of Moudy South to require a complete wall replacement.
Several FTDM offices have also experienced noticeable damages stemming from this issue.
Gregory Mansur is an associate professor for the department and his office has experienced peeling paint and other damage.
The hallway outside of the KTCU station and area outside the nearby stairwell also experiences moderate flooding during heavy rainfall, Whillock said.
Dr. Daxton “Chip” Stewart, the associate dean of the Schieffer College of Communication, said he has noticed the water damage.
“Every time it rains, our building goes underwater,” Stewart said. “When you walk in, it’s like a swamp there. Or sometimes I get there and the cleanup crew is already here trying to dry things out or it just reeks of water damage.”
All damage has been on ground floor as that is the only part of the building’s structure resting upon the floating slab, Leeman said.
The second and third floors are being supported by independent columns that are uncompromised and do not rely on the slab for main structural support.
The architect who originally built Moudy is responsible for the instability of the ground floor, Leeman said.
Leeman said there is a type of support that has been used around campus to avoid this exact issue. This support involves installing “void boxes” that are put under the floors of the building to raise it above the ground, therefore providing constant and unchanging support.
This method has been used in other buildings on campus such as Scharbuer Hall and the Brown-Lupton University Union.
Leeman said Moudy doesn’t have these boxes because they would have needed to be installed during the building’s construction.
“I’m sure the architect that designed it said, ‘I can control the movement of the [slab],” Leeman said. “The architect didn’t get it quite right.”
The Moudy Building was constructed in 1980 after being designed by the Connecticut-based architecture firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, according to the building report and the firm’s website.
The firm declined to be interviewed.
Leeman said there have been attempts to fix the problem in the past, most recently in 2011.
The campus experienced heavy rainfall that year and Leeman said facility services felt this was the time to ensure the newly expanded soil wouldn’t shrink.
“We went in there and pumped some Styrofoam [that] expands…and pushed the floor out to the optimum height,” Leeman said.
Whillock said since the repairs, the damages have slowed but are continuing to occur.
“It’s a Mother Nature issue that we just continue to attack and the question is ‘how far do we go?’” Whillock said. “[The repairs] have been somewhat effective but they haven’t fixed it.”
Leeman said there are several options that could be explored in fixing the situation, including enhancing or changing the composition of the soil under the slab to prevent fluctuations.
Attempts to keep the soil continually moist using the sprinklers outside Moudy are being made but the current drought is hampering those efforts.
“There’s no real easy answer, I think we’ve pumped [the ground] up as much as it’s going to go,” Leeman said.
Both Whillock and Leeman said there are no future plans for major repairs to the ground floor despite the damages that are consistently taking place in the building.
There is also little to no communication taking place between facility services and those in the Moudy Building, said both Whillock and Leeman.
“[Facility services] should be aware of it because they’ve had to come and fix leaks and door holes so if they’re not aware, they’re not listening because it’s happening,” Whillock said.
Despite the constant damages and inconvenience caused by the sinking, Leeman said he has yet to be contacted from anyone in the Moudy Building regarding the issue.
“Since we did the repairs in 2011, we have not had anyone say anything about [the damages] in the last four years,” Leeman said.
The real solution to the solving the sinking problem in Moudy may not be there at all, Whillock said.
“This is one of those issues where there doesn’t seem to be a quick fix for at all and there may not even be a long-term fix,” Whillock said. “We don’t know.”