Sporadic issues with the building standards in Trinity Hall, Dartry, led to 11 of the student accommodation site’s rooms being put out of use due to flooding and damp in the last academic year. The figure was confirmed to Trinity News on foot of testimony from students affected by the issue, which has seemingly been ongoing for a number of years.
A spokesperson for Trinity College Dublin said that the problems were caused by “failures in the sealing of the brick cladding” on the buildings’ exterior. Last year, the 11 rooms were put out of use, and renovated with money from the Estates and Facilities budget. The college would not be drawn on the overall expenditure on the issue, but confirmed that all affected rooms were returned to use for the start of the 2016-17 year.
From testimonial experience of a number of students to stay in Halls over the last number of years, it would appear that the issue has been ongoing. Áine Palmer, now a JS English & Music student, stayed in a room in House 91 of Trinity Hall for the 2014-15 academic year, when she was a Junior Freshman. According to Palmer and Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh, another student who stayed in the flat at the same time, Palmer’s room became exceptionally damp, and began to leak in the first half of that year’s Michaelmas Term.
“If you imagine if it rained onto a carpet, that’s what it was like, you wouldn’t believe it.”
When she put her foot down or walked around, water would splash up. The walls, they said, were clearly affected by exceptional dampness. “We went into her room, and the carpet, if you jumped up and down, water would come up. If you imagine if it rained onto a carpet, that’s what it was like, you wouldn’t believe it”, said Ní Cheallaigh. Although the relevant college authorities were helpful when contacted in relation to the issue, they claim that the response was slow nonetheless. When staff came out to look at the room, Ní Cheallaigh said that one person told the flatmates to “call us when it’s up to your ears”.
A dehumidifier was provided to her from a stock which was kept on site at Halls, something which Ní Cheallaigh said was “huge, disgusting, 80s-style, and it stank”. “These were these huge machines that smelled made massive amounts of noise… you wouldn’t want to be sitting in the room one was going in the corner”, said Palmer.
According to Palmer and others contacted for this story, the issue is relatively widespread. “If you go to Halls on a rainy day, literally just wait in the reception for people to start coming in, looking for dehumidifiers and that kind of thing”, she said. Beyond the rooms that flood, she said, there would always be more affected by lesser levels of damp.
Eventually, Palmer’s room, like 11 of them in the most recent college year, was put out of use and boarded up until the end of 2014/15. After spending some time in another flat, she chose to return to the one she had left, taking a space in the room beside her old one, which was also affected by damp, though to a lesser degree. “It wasn’t damp to the point that if you jumped on the carpet [it would splash]”.
“The problems only really presented when there was a combination of heavy rainfall and strong winds.”
Trinity’s spokesperson said that, in response to the issue, a consulting engineering practice had been appointed to investigate the problem and find solutions, though finding the precise cause of the problem was difficult due to “the sporadic and occasional nature of the occurrences”. It was often “dependent on the extent of the rainfall and the direction of the wind on a particular day”, said the spokesperson. “The problems only really presented when there was a combination of heavy rainfall and strong winds.”
The spokesperson further confirmed that the costs to repairs and maintenance were not a charge on the concerned students’ accounts, though Palmer said that attempts to get a discount on her accommodation fees proved difficult. Eventually, College relented and discounted her a week’s fees.
At the time of going to print, nobody from either Halls or College more generally had responded to Trinity News’ follow up questions regarding the number of rooms affected in years before 2015-16; what the expenditure figures were, both in total and as a proportion of the overall maintenance budget; whether any rooms have been affected by the issue in consecutive years; what the standard procedure is for dealing with student complaints of flooding; and whether the original builders of Halls could be considered to be liable or at fault. We are happy to update our story with this information, as soon as it becomes available.