Spring windstorm causes wall collapse and minor construction setback for Thunder Village
by Alexandra Purcell
Construction on Colorado State University-Pueblo’s new Student Village shopping center has experienced a major setback after a windstorm took out a newly-built wall on-site.
The front wall of the shopping center collapsed March 24, 2017, at around 1:30-2 a.m. according to Wes Faris, project manager at Arc Valley Construction. It happened in the midst of a severe windstorm that caused severe damage all across the Pueblo area. No one was injured.
“Where we’re at now is… well, we lost (the wall), we cleaned it up, and now we’re rebuilding it,” Faris said.
Arc Valley Construction projected a five-week setback in the construction process, but Faris said raising the new wall isn’t what’s going to take a long time. “Right now, we’re just waiting on new brick,” he said. “All the material is coming from Summit Brick & Tile (in Pueblo). They make them on order, so they’re making them right now, but that’ll take a while.”
Since the shopping center will be built with three different colors of brick that makes it more difficult for Summit Brick to fill the order, he said.
Despite the setback, though, Arc Valley predicts the project will still be completed by the deadline—before the new school year, that is. “Even though you’re five weeks behind, you’re going to pick up some time along the way,” said Debbie Proctor, project manager at CSU-Pueblo’s Physical Plant.
At the time of the collapse, Arc Valley had constructed all four walls of the complex. “They were fully grouted, so they were solid, and they had rebar going from the foundation all the way up,” he said. All the walls were braced with typical masonry bracing. It should have stood up to a 70 mph wind.”
Unfortunately, this was not the case, as wind speeds were much higher than anticipated. “The wind gauge at the airport blew out at 75 mph, so we don’t have an accurate measurement there,” Faris said. Gauges at the Transportation Technology Center north of Pueblo registered winds close to 100 mph, and Faris said a family friend in Beulah measured speeds of 127 mph.
Pete Larsen, foreman at J L Concrete Inc. in Carlsbad, California, said that engineers calculate the average wind speeds in the area of a build. “If wind gusts of 60 mph are typical of the area, then that’s what they’ll calculate their design to,” he said. However, if a building doesn’t have a roof on it yet, the walls can be more susceptible to wind damage, especially if the speeds are higher than anticipated.
“No matter how well they’re braced, walls aren’t made to stand by themselves,” Larsen said. “Without a roof, they can act like sails.
Faris said large openings on the front wall of the shopping center allowed wind to blow into the building, causing air pressure to shift and ultimately collapsing the wall.
In 27 years of operation, this is the largest setback Faris said Arc Valley Construction has had to deal with. “We’ve never lost a wall before,” he said. “Mother Nature’s still in charge.”