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  Richmond Turns offo Heat After Carbon Monoxide Scare at Civic Center Complex
February 15, 2013

Back in 2007 when the Civic Center rehabilitation design was underway, the City Council was presented with the task of deciding whether to include operable windows or fixed windows. Despite overwhelming evidence that operable windows were the best choice for many reasons, the “flat earth” City Council majority made a “spite vote” (reminiscent of current Council politics) and chose inoperable windows, resulting in sealed building.
One of the many reasons for choosing operable windows was that if there were a malfunctioning of the HVAC system, the building could continue to operate with natural ventilation. It appears that the sealed building is not functioning as well as intended and has been evacuated on several occasions due to a buildup of carbon monoxide.
The find out more about the great window fight see:
Richmond Aghast at Behavior of Viramontes Five, June 6, 2007
Viramontes Five Defies Experts and Votes to Seal Up Rehabilitated City Hall, June 5, 2007
Windows into the Past, July 3, 2007
I have no regrets is saying, “I told you so.”
Richmond turns off heat after carbon monoxide scare at Civic Center complex
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted:   02/15/2013 04:55:28 PM PST
Updated:   02/15/2013 04:55:28 PM PST
RICHMOND -- Carbon monoxide detected at the Civic Center Plaza this week forced the city to turn off heaters and initiate work on the heating and air systems at the recently renovated three-building complex, according to an email from Assistant City Manager Leslie Knight.
"A problem analysis has been completed by a mechanical engineering firm," Knight wrote in an email to all city employees Friday. "A modification to the HVAC system components on the roof has been designed to prevent exhaust fumes from entering into the air intake. Installation will be underway soon with a completion date scheduled for Feb. 21."
There was no mention of how high the carbon monoxide levels were or how they were detected. The city's risk manager, Robyn Kain, forwarded press questions to her and Knight to Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks, who did not respond to an email as of late Friday.
Knight assured the city's more than 1,000 employees that the building is safe.
"Alarms have been installed on each floor as well which will sound if an elevated level of carbon monoxide is detected," Knight wrote.
The Civic Center complex underwent a $100-million-plus renovation in 2006-8. At the time, a closely-divided City Council opted to install fixed windows rather than operable windows. The decision saved about $1.2 million at the time, but mechanical engineering experts said the operable windows would have paid for themselves in energy and productivity savings.
In response to Knight's email about the carbon monoxide, Councilman Tom Butt wrote "Operable windows sure would have helped."
Knight wrote back, "point well taken."
Knight's letter said the city's heating boilers would remain off and that carbon monoxide levels would be continually monitored for safety. She assured employees that the city's Public Works Department has been checking the levels three times per day this week, and a Fire Department engine crew did its own testing Thursday.
" ... While fresh air will still be provided for the buildings, no heat will be generated," she wrote. "Employees are expected to continue to work. However you may want to dress more warmly or have layers available to keep yourself warm."
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or