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Vol. LXVI, No. 14
July 4, 2014

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Structural Fault Closes Off-Campus Bldg.

Structural problems have closed 6100 Exec. Blvd.
Structural problems have closed 6100 Exec. Blvd.

Structural damage that occurred suddenly on May 16 to the foundation of an NIH leased facility at 6100 Executive Blvd. has closed the building indefinitely to NIH tenants from several institutes and centers. No one was injured in the incident.

At about 10 a.m. that morning, Dr. David Murray, director of NIH’s Office of Disease Prevention, was sitting in his office on the second floor when “suddenly, the building shook quite noticeably. I thought it was an earthquake. It only lasted for a few seconds. I heard a series of loud, crashing noises above me.”

Murray walked to the outer suite of ODP’s offices and discovered “no one else was disturbed, or aware of it—maybe a little, but not a great deal.”

He noticed that some people were leaving the building, but security staff at 6100 soon told occupants that they could return to the building.

“It was only then that I noticed that the exterior wall of the building had a big crack in it that hadn’t been there before,” Murray said. He then saw staff in hard hats gathering outside the building, looking upward.

“That’s when we knew that something had happened,” he said. Word came that the building was to be evacuated, but no alarm sounded.

Murray had given his staff permission to leave for the day if they weren’t comfortable remaining. He stayed for several more hours, learning that other people on his side of the building (west side) had also heard noises, at least as far up as the fifth floor.

Murray said NIH’ers who work at 6100 were allowed into their offices to retrieve personal belongings, laptops and files for about a week after the incident. “I went back three or four times,” he said. “Then Montgomery County stepped in and closed the building, and that was that.”

Most of Murray’s staff has telework capacity, he noted, and one of ODP’s contractors has space to accommodate employees. “We have been able to manage. Lots of people offered us space—they were very generous in accommodating us—for people who needed NIH IT connections.”

Murray was informed that a steel column situated between his office and a neighboring office was at the root of the problem. Engineers surmise that water damage to the column’s foundation had eroded it, causing it to buckle.

“It only fell a few inches, but a lot of weight was involved,” he said.

“We may go back [to 6100], or we may be forced to relocate.”

Displaced tenants at 6100 total 167 people from the Office of the Director (including ODP staff), 318 people from NICHD and 11 from the Clinical Center. All building occupants were invited to a July 1 meeting at which possible re-occupation of 6100 was the main agenda item.

The building management company is Axent Realty Group, which is the agent for Stephen A. Goldberg Co. In a June 6 letter to NIH’s Office of Research Facilities, a Goldberg representative said that 6100 could be repaired as early as the July 4 weekend.—Rich McManus

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