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March 21, 2005

Hilltop Renovation Plan to Ensure Fire Code Compliance

A spending plan to address code compliance problems at Hilltop Apartments was approved by the Board of Trustees during a special meeting March 11.

The $14.9 million plan includes a new heating and hot water system with boilers located in three or four buildings external to the residences and removal of the gas hot water heaters in each apartment. Installation of the central boilers – 12 in all – will allow the University to remove chimney flues which were not constructed to meet code.

“This plan will correct the problems we discovered in the complex late last fall and ensure that the facilities meet fire and building codes,” said Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, vice president and chief operating officer. “The UConn fire marshal’s office, with the concurrence of the state fire marshal and building inspector, determined the complex is safe for occupancy.”

The solution eliminates the need for individual flues venting the apartments’ hot water heaters and the requirement for a fire-rated enclosed flue shaft, thus removing the code violation, Flaherty-Goldsmith said. It also eliminates the presence of fuel burning equipment in each apartment and the potential for carbon monoxide gas.

Other corrections that are part of the plan, developed by Pierz Associates of Wethersfield, code consultants hired by the University late last fall, include removal of recessed light fixtures and duct work which penetrate ceilings and do not meet the standard fire rating, and vents for some dryers which exceed the maximum distance permitted.

Work on the project will be done by Dimeo Construction, which provided the low bid.

The University discovered late last fall that the complex did not meet fire and building codes. The University pledged to correct all code violations by fall, 2005. Many of the corrections have already been completed but the heating system replacement has been scheduled to begin after the spring semester ends.

In order to complete the work before the start of school next fall, students who occupy Hilltop apartments will have to vacate at the close of spring semester, rather than living in the apartments until Aug. 1.

The University is aggressively pursuing recovery of the costs for these corrections from Capstone Development Corp., the firm that designed and built the complex.