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Things That Go 'Bump!' in the Basement!


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I'm hoping to attract what might be considered 'explained ghost stories' in this thread. Here's a good one I heard from a contractor a few years back.

You need to understand that when a building has been around for many decades, original plans can become unreadable or simply lost...as one who has worked in a number of old buildings, and works in one now, I can attest to that. Even in new buildings, prints may not reflect reality...the original prints show the architect's vision, but what the engineers and contractors finally shape into reality can be somewhat different. Contractors are supposed to prepare and deliver 'as built' plans which show what is actually there...but, by that time in a building project cycle, the work is substantially completed and unless a significant carrot/stick is dangled the 'as-builts' tend to get shortchanged as they represent a pure added cost to the contractor.

It seems that, if you ventured into the basement of downtown's old Gulf Building at the midnight hour, one would hear a creepy noise and strange vibration coming from somewhere. That it was there no one could deny, but where it came from or what it was no one could explain. This happened once a week, at midnight, regular as clockwork. The building tenants were all upstairs, well away from the area, and only the night crew was there to hear the unexplained noises. This went on for years. Decades.

And then, one day, some upgrades were being planned in the building's electrical system. New conduit had to be run, and it needed to go through an area which wasn't on any of the current prints. There was no access, no doors or hatches, into this area; the only thing to do was to cut into a wall and see what was behind it. (Geraldo Rivera, are you listening?)

They cut into the wall and found...an old electrical room, abandoned some time in the mid-1940s. And there, in this electrical room, was an emergency generator. No longer in use, but it had never been disconnected from electricity and it was powered by natural gas which had never been shut off. And it was on...a once-a-week exercise timer! Every week, at the midnight hour, that timer had been faithfully starting and exercising that generator. It had been running, in that walled-off abandoned electrical room, with no upkeep and no maintenance, for more than forty years!

The story ends there, but I'd really like to hear what became of that generator....

So, does anyone else have a tale to tell?

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44 minutes ago, Ross said:

One reason for retention is to ensure the as builts are done and approved.

I agree, but then sometimes you run into a situation such as we had at the George R. Brown (Convention Center) in 2004. The City had it booked for the Super Bowl, a hard deadline if there ever was one, in the midst of an ongoing expansion project. After seeing the contractors at work I opined, "You're just trying to get this (the HVAC controls) to run well enough long enough to get a signature on the dotted line, then take the money and run." They agreed.

For what it's worth, after that signature had been affixed and the project supposedly completed, we were finding VAV boxes which had been signed off as 'commissioned' but still had the shipping blocks in place on the internal fans for months afterwards. The City had been too cheap to pay us, or someone else, to babysit them to ensure that the job was done right.

"There's never time to do it right, but there's always time to do it over...."

Edited by ehbowen
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