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Edgerton Residents Discuss Damage, 106 dB Noise

By Jeremiah Y. Yu

Residents of Edgerton House met with Director of Housing Karen A. Nilsson and construction representatives of the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis Wednesday evening.

The group discussed vibration damage to cars and computer monitors and what students describe as almost unbearably ear-splitting pile-driving from construction on Novartis’ new facilities at the former New England Confectionary Company candy factory on Massachusetts Ave.

The construction project will renovate the Necco building to house laboratory and office space for Novartis and an underground parking garage.

Chris Brown, the project manager from John Moriarty and Associates of Winchester, Mass., which also built the Sidney-Pacific graduate dormitory, said the project is scheduled to be complete by next April.

Noise hits 106 dB, students say

The construction has required extensive pile-driving. Residents complained about excessive noise from the pile-driving, often starting as early as 7:00 a.m., they said.

Peter R. Russo, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and the Edgerton treasurer, said he borrowed a friend’s professional decibel meter and measured readings of 106 dB -- similar to the front row of a heavy metal concert -- with his windows open, and 85 dB with his windows closed.

“I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep since February,” Russo said.

But Brown, the project manager, disputed Russo’s measurement, saying his engineers had measured the noise at only 75 to 78 dB, similar to the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

Company shifts noisy operations

Many students said they called the Cambridge and MIT Police to complain about the noise and were told that the police could not intervene when Novartis had a permit for the construction.

The noise problem was not addressed until students talked with Gertrude A. Morris, the Edgerton house manager. Morris contacted Nilsson, who set up the Wednesday-night meeting with the construction representatives.

At the meeting, Tom Mazza of DSF Advisors L.L.C., which is leasing the property to Novartis, said “we can’t change the past,” but that the construction company was taking measures to minimize the noise.

Brown said he has shifted noise-intensive operations to begin at 9 a.m. rather than 7 a.m.

Furthermore, he said, construction workers are trying to use a quieter vibrating method instead of the impact pile driving.

Nilsson pledges to hear concerns

“I apologize for the inconvenience,” Brown said at the end of the meeting. “We’ll make every effort to mitigate concerns.”

But many residents present said they felt that there wasn’t enough being done to address their complaints. Brown and Mazza “weren’t terribly apologetic or sympathetic,” Russo said.

Nilsson pledged to work with the construction company to address the complaints of students.

For example, the issue of raising compensation for damaged goods caused by vibrations from construction machinery became a focal point in the discussion.

Nilsson encouraged students to document any damage that occurred, and she volunteered to bring these claims to the attention of the construction company.

“Please don’t think we’re not hearing your concerns,” she said.