Tiles come loose in one of SDSU’s oldest buildings


Halen Groenke, Reporter

A Grove Hall classroom filled with students and their professor was disrupted Feb. 18 when rows of tiles abruptly started to rise up from the floor. 

The Letterpress studio class was meeting at 7 p.m. when students began to hear a popping noise and felt vibrations under their feet. 

Peyton Powers, a senior graphic design major, was nearby when the incident occurred. At first, she thought that the noise was caused by one of her classmates dropping their metal-type press pieces on the floor. 

“The popping noise just kept getting louder,” said Powers. When she looked around the room more, that’s when she saw the tile cracking and rising up from the floor. 

“The floor is literally coming apart,” she said. 

University Police Department personnel were the first on scene and evacuated the building for further investigation. 

“Pressure that’s built up in the tile floor just has to go somewhere,” Jonathan Meendering, project architect at South Dakota State University, said. “The tile is stronger than the mortar, so it popped up all the tiles.” 

Grove Commons was built in 1962 as a food service facility. In 1995, the building was remodeled and renamed Grove Hall. It now holds additional space for classrooms and offices. 

The incident happened because of old finishes and the cold weather causing differential movement of the tiles. Meendering said they looked over the original as-built drawings for the building. 

“Going back to its original construction as a kitchen area with walk-in coolers, the subfloor in those areas is different under different areas because of where coolers used to be located,” he said. 

Lightweight concrete blocks were installed above the concrete structure because lightweight concrete is a better insulator than solid concrete. The location where the tile popped up was where some of the lightweight concrete was first installed. 

“It’s kind of reaching and has reached the end of its useful life,” Meendering said, regarding the tile floor. “Failures aren’t uncommon.”

Meendering said when looking in the crawl space under Grove Hall, it was in good condition for a building that is 59 years old. 

“I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the structure is in good shape,” he said. 

The tiles that cracked are set to be replaced over spring break, and Meendering plans to put in an expansion joint in the tiles that can take more movement. He also said there would be no significant hazards if this incident were to occur again. 

“It’s a finish material, it has nothing to do with the integrity of the building and being able to hold things up,” he said. “So really there’s no danger other than you could trip over the tile.”

There is no current plan for further maintenance to be done to Grove Hall. Powers said students were back in class the following week and were concerned with the safety of the classroom. 

“They didn’t really tell us how they determined that it was safe,” she said. 

As a senior graduating in May, Powers said things could be done to improve the quality of life for many students that use Grove Hall, like adding new tables that charge their laptops and updated furniture. 

“We don’t have enough outlets for a program that’s entirely based on computers,” she said. “I feel like Grove [Hall] has been really neglected when it comes to repairs.”