By Lourdes Espinoza and Brian Villalba
The E7 Technology Center at East Los Angeles College remains occupied in spite of safety issues because of exceptions to Division of State Architect certification.
The DSA certified buildings have historically proven safe and have lowered maintenance costs more than buildings that go without certification.
The Tech Center hosts a total of nine departments and plays a vital role for thousands of students and faculty.
E7 is equipped with a photo lab/studio, radio station, newsroom and Learning Assistance Center along with a faculty meeting room.
Safety challenges have plagued the four-story building, as it has gone without certification by the DSA three times. E7 remains without certification.
In 2006, community colleges were given the option of choosing to design and construct under local building codes or under the Field Act through a clause in Assembly Bill 127.
This “quake clause” in AB 127 contradicts recommendations the California Seismic Safety Commission made to the state regarding public education buildings.
Composed of members from state and local government, this group opposes any legislative actions that remove public school buildings from DSA certification.
They recommend no public school building in California should be exempt.
The commission has also stated that school buildings constructed under the Field Act have performed extremely well in earthquakes since 1940, and no DSA certified buildings have collapsed.
E7 first opened its doors to students and faculty on August 30, 2004 although certain floors remained closed for further construction.
At the time, the building was not certified. This was 11 years after the planning of E7 began.
It was closed without certification in May of 2008 due to deficiencies dealing with unresolved safety issues.
In January of 2010, the file of E7 at the DSA was once again closed without certification.
A temporary device powered by a diesel engine is what is in place in the basement of the Technology Center, preventing the project from complete certification.
Documents required for project certification, as listed under the DSA website deal with the provision of permanent water supply with adequate pressure.
This has yet to be resolved since 2007 and is still in construction per Diran Depanian, Architect said. Depanian is Architect of Record and TDM Architects Inc. senior partner, who declined to comment on the specifics.
LACCD required, without exception, that all projects close with certification.
Any deviation from this contractual obligation would suspend any AOR future eligibility to work for the District.
In March of this year, an internal document from the LACCD detailed consequences of closing projects without certification.
One of the consequences is the transfer of personal liability from the AOR to ELAC and members of the Board of Trustees.
The LACCD contracted TDM Architects Inc. for the 105,000 square-foot E7 building costing $22.4 million of which $5 million was funded through bond funds such as Measure K.
Enacted in 1933, the Field Act came into effect after the 6.3 magnitude Long Beach earthquake that affected more than 230 school buildings that were either destroyed, suffered major damage or were deemed unsafe to occupy.
The 1933 Long Beach earthquake happened at 5:55 p.m. on a Friday. Schools would have been full only a few hours earlier.
As a result of the Field Act, the DSA was founded.
Seismic safety in California’s early public education building sites increased for all public education construction projects grades K-14, including community colleges.
Approval is required through the Architect of Record upon completion of any project.
Regardless of the fact that certain safety issues are in question, TDM Architects Inc. received the American School and University-Outstanding Design Award in 2004 and the Community College Facilities Coalition Award of Excellence in 2005 for the E7 building.