Slipping on the tiles in front of Hamilton “Ham” Center during rainy weather has become a rite of passage for New College students. Many new students take warnings of caution lightly but once the wet season has ended they understand the risks.
“I left the north for literally one reason, because I hate slipping on ice. And now I have to deal with this [slipping on the tiles],” second-year Rachael Murphy said. “You can’t have ceramic tiles in a place where it rains all the time, it’s a safety hazard. I watched two kids face-plant off their bikes within two minutes because of it.”
Rainy season in Florida typically lasts from June through October. Although administration has not yet announced the replacement of these tiles – choosing instead to replace broken tales on a case by case basis – preliminary plans for replacement do exist, according to Director of Physical Plant Alan Burr.
One of the decisions is going to be whether the original tiles, which were imported from Mexico, are to be replaced by individual pavers or by embossed concrete.
“The pro to using pavers is that if we need to put a pipe in then we can disassemble them, put them on a rack, get everything squared away, and then put them all back,” Burr said.
Embossed concrete, on the other hand, is colored concrete that is cast to resemble particular patterns or textures, an example can be found directly in front of the Harry Sudakoff Conference Center. The downside to using embossed concrete is that once it has set, if any repairs have to be made to pipes laid underneath, the surface has to be completely torn up and the process of laying concrete repeated.
To determine a budget in order to carry out this project, Physical Plant hired contractors to design the renovation and provide an estimate. After receiving the amount, Physical Plant has determined that this venture will have to be placed on the back burner for a while.
In total, this renovation has been quoted to cost NCF upwards of $1 million dollars. Replacing the basic essentials alone will cost approximately $386,177. These include the pavers, the stairs, and the ramps located in front of the Ham classrooms that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines.
Becoming ADA compliant will require significantly more work than simply replacing the Ham tiles. Increasing that price-point further are Physical Plant’s larger objectives, such as the replacement of lamps and furniture in the Ham courtyard, as well as the addition of hurricane safety precautions and a shade structure for the outside dining area. Some positive news is that NCF can request funding from the state legislature to help finance the project, but right now, replacing the tiles in front of Ham is not a cost that NCF can afford.
Stepping on history
It’s possible that the notorious Pei tiles have even played a part in NCF history, acting as a catalyst in establishing the longstanding tradition of roaming around with bare feet.
“I’ve never slipped on the tiles with bare feet but I have while wearing shoes,” third-year Robert Barber said.
Not wearing shoes can be dangerous, especially with Florida’s unpredictable weather. “Both of my feet got burned [walking barefoot],” second-year Cassandra Ratzlaff said. “It was awful. I went to the Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care and they had to slice the blisters off because they were so big.”
Information for this article was gathered from sfwmd.gov and adawheelchairramps.com.