After the fire: Becton Hall one year later

Becton Hall fire alarms before and after fire

Heat from the June 2013 fire in Becton Hall melted fire alarms in the building’s third floor hallway. All new alarms were installed during the cleanup. (Right photo courtesy Facilities Department and right photo by Dan Landau)

By Kenna Caprio

METRO (July 3, 2014) — On a hot June evening in 2013, local emergency personnel responded to a fire in Becton Hall on Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus. The academic building was closed for renovations at the time, and though the fire itself was quickly contained and extinguished, Becton Hall sustained serious smoke, water and fire damage inside.

Serious enough to halt and postpone the construction work — an overhaul and update of the building and facilities — and shift focus to restoring the building. One year later, renovations are once again underway at a reconditioned and improved Becton Hall.

Becton Hall wiring before and after the fire

Post-fire, workers replaced all of the wiring in the building — from electrical to cable, data, phone and security wires. Blackened, soot-covered walls were ice-blasted clean. (Top photo courtesy Facilities Department and bottom photo by Dan Landau

“Some of these improvements we never would’ve been able to make. It’s a better building now than it was before,” says Joseph Kiernan, Metropolitan Campus provost and senior vice provost for institutional effectiveness.

“The fire started on the third floor. When we walked in after the fire department gave us the okay, it felt like a rainforest,” says Kiernan. “The damage was as much a result of water as of fire. The third floor looked black. Plastic fire alarms melted like candles. Ceilings came down and water contaminated our electrical units.”

Immediately following the fire, safety inspectors “red-tagged” the building, allowing only emergency responders in. But by 6 p.m. the next day, facilities employees were allowed back in to start installing a temporary electrical service.

“Our insurance carrier worked with us every step of the way,” says Richard Frick, associate vice president for facilities. Insurance, building, electrical and fire inspectors and local code officials provided swift support as the sift through debris started.

The facilities team swapped out damaged utilities and furnishings for LED lights and reclaimed furniture. New window coverings and floors were purchased and installed. Doors received a fresh coat of paint and walls were ice-blasted clean.

Becton Hall classrooms and hallways before and after fire

Becton Hall classrooms, laboratories and hallways that sustained fire, water and smoke damage have been fully-restored and renovated.  (Top photo courtesy Facilities Department and bottom photo by Dan Landau)

All wiring in the building, including electrical, cable, data, phone and security wires, had to be replaced, says Frick.

Each week Kiernan, Frick and others met to discuss progress on the building. Would parts of the building be ready for the fall 2013 semester? Scheduling officers hustled to find suitable, temporary classroom space elsewhere on campus.

“Our first priority was the water damage in the physics and computer labs. Those are unique and exist nowhere else on campus,” says Kiernan.

By the start of the fall semester, laboratories and classrooms on the first two floors of Becton Hall were available, and the restoration of the third and fourth floors was in progress. That work was completed in November and the space opened for the 2014 spring semester.

Becton Hall receives an elevator this fall, making the building barrier-free and easier to maneuver for FDU students with disabilities. Unisex restrooms will be installed on each floor.

“Next summer we’ll relocate the engineering and multimedia labs to Becton Hall,” says Kiernan. The vacated labs in other academic buildings will become general-purpose classrooms for fall 2015.

“Students and faculty will love this 21st century space now,” says Kiernan. “We have strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs, and they’re only going to get better in this new space, with first-rate STEM facilities.”