The Daily Gamecock

Skylight leaks dampen Russell

Union director says old building design causes damage, needs maintenance


Russell House is looking leaky.

Buckets on the stairwell by Greene Street have collected dripping rainwater from the skylights above them for most of the week.

The leaks are nothing new, said Kim McMahon, director of the Russell House.

“The skylights have leaked for many years,” McMahon said. “When we have heavy and consistent rain, it leaks inside.”

McMahon said the angle of the skylight makes it difficult for repair workers to access from the outside, and since the stairwell lies directly beneath it, workers have struggled to find a means to seal the windows from the inside as well.

The skylights are on USC’s Capital Renewal Plan to be replaced “in the next year or so,” according to Thomas Quasney, associate vice president for Facilities.

Quasney said in an email response that the original construction of Russell House is to blame.

“The windows were poorly designed and water pools at the bottom,” Quasney said. “The freeze-thaw cycle each year and the sunlight beating on them causes the sealants to deteriorate rapidly.”

McMahon said she wishes there was a better short-term solution than setting out buckets, but safety is her priority.

“The buckets are unsightly,” McMahon said. “But they’re better than a wet floor someone could slip on.”

She said the skylights are at least 34 years old, possibly older, and that the leaks are just another indicator of the age of the building.

“The permanent fix is a new building,” she said.

To make matters worse, McMahon said, a leak in the Russell House’s foundation also causes occasional leakage from below, which leads to puddles forming on some of the stairwell’s underground platforms.

“The Russell House staff have tried to collaborate with our partners in Facilities with unsuccessful outcomes,” McMahon said. “The preventative maintenance plan ends up being deferred maintenance, until you’re desperate.”

Quasney said the master plan does identify a need for more student services space, but that the Russell House is fine as it is.

“The current building is the same as when I was a student 34 years ago, and the student population has increased significantly,” Quasney said. “However, the facility is in good shape overall.”