Pernetta Graham works at the dry cleaners across the street from Buist Academy where the incessant clang from driving earthquake support pilings deep into the ground has rocked the neighborhood since early March.
“You ever had a hangover?” she said, comparing the mind-numbing din as each mechanical pound echoes off buildings and walls.
“It’s that beating in your head,” she said, “It goes boom, boom, boom all day long.”
Maybe for not much longer. The contractor driving the hundreds of ground pilings designed to make the new Buist more earthquake-proof said he expects to have the pounding work done by Thursday or Friday.
That’s good news for locals in and around Charleston’s Ansonborough neighborhood who have endured morning-to-night hammer sessions that were supposed to be finished in March.
Chad Reynolds, site superintendent and quality control manager, said he hopes to keep a finishing pace of at least 10 pilings a day. About 60 of the more than 400 pilings still need to be set.
He pegged the delay on Charleston’s deep soil, saying that about 55 feet down the texture is extremely sandy, which means it takes more “pounds” than had been anticipated.
“In some areas, they are dropping in like butter,” said Reynolds, of H.G. Reynolds Co. Inc. “But in some areas, it takes more than 100 blow counts.”
Blow counts are measurements of how many hits it takes to plunge the pilings deep and secure into the soil. Ideally, as few as six hits are needed to pound a piling a foot, he said.
Reynolds said he’s aware of the community’s stressed patience, but added “that’s construction for you.”
Buist Academy is one of five Charleston County schools with seismic deficiencies and is undergoing repairs and renovations to make it better able to withstand an earthquake.
For the next week, the pounding will stay on a schedule of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Even with the extra time needed, the first phase of the project is on schedule to be completed by June 8, said Bob Faust, project manager for Cumming Corp., program managers for the school district.