Rodent control for large urban structures such as museums and more


In the spring of 1992, I had the privilege of launching one of the most ambitious and focused applications of integrated rat management ever applied to a single major building. A monumental federal building designed in the Beaux-Arts style and completed in 1914, this six-story structure currently has 1.2 million square feet of floor space primarily devoted to office space, but also includes retail services and even a museum.

Its first large-scale renovation took place from 1929 to 1935. A second, even more drastic renovation took place from 1990 to 1993. “Reconstruction” would be a more accurate word, as a significant part of the building’s interior has been totally emptied before a spatial reconfiguration, the installation of a new mechanical system and the restoration of historically significant elements. When the colossal structure was reopened for business following the completion of the first phase of this work in 1992, the General Services Administration (GSA) assumed responsibility for its operation and maintenance.

As with so many other neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., or, for that matter, any major city, the building’s immediate location has supported a dense population of brown rats for as long as can be remembered. was therefore evident that they would do at least a moderate nuisance to themselves during the project.

Construction activities are seriously disrupting the lives of virtually all types of wildlife on the site, but also present considerable opportunities in the form of unsecured food waste which tends to accumulate almost everywhere. Harvesting this bounty inevitably leads to further investigation of the countless open passages that lead deep into the promising new harbor. The application of rodenticides to these protean habitats is generally as light as the construction company’s sub-contractor can get away with, if any, so repeated nighttime explorations of the interior of the building by a Growing numbers of curious rodents are generally a low-risk venture.

Eventually, however, the unlimited anarchy comes to an end. The increasing human activity devoted to the piece-by-piece installation of utilities, other support systems and commercial equipment – as well as the increasing sterility of the indoor environment as the work draws to a close – begins to drive away all but the most resourceful (or desperate) rats, at the same time as the outer envelope of the structure becomes less and less permeable. These obstacles that are inevitably built into the finished product are slowly removed with traps and rodenticides as the responsibility for pest control passes to another vendor (hired by the building operator) with a long-term contractual interest in keeping things under control.

That’s what normally happens anyway. In this particular case, schedules drawn up in meeting rooms away from the front line predicted that much of the building would be occupied by the summer of 1992, more than a year before construction of the 100-meter museum was complete. 000 square feet.

MONUMENTAL CHALLENGE. Populating new space before completion in closely adjacent areas is not unusual for large construction projects, but to do so with such a visible expanse of the structure still open to the world was extreme. This led to an extremely extreme indoor rat crisis throughout the building, which was considered by all stakeholders to be entirely my problem to be solved.

Since the property first appeared on my radar in late 1991, when a shrewd facilities manager thought it might be good to share occupancy times with me (the info by irregular and unofficial channels are essential to the effective functioning of any large organization), I had plenty of time to prepare for the consequences. But I had also only been in the job for a little over three years at that time, so the initial campaign I organized was very limited to a rote exercise on IPM procedures from the textbooks.

There have been numerous meetings and site visits to brief contractors and government staff representing multiple ministries across multiple agencies on specific challenges, roles and responsibilities; aggressive and ongoing outreach to tenants and helmets to make them aware of the situation (not that they weren’t already) and their vital role in practicing proper food storage and waste disposal procedures food (usually a monumentally futile message); and a massive deployment of rodenticides and pressure traps by the regional GSA pest control contractor, guided by intensive monitoring to identify where these measures were most needed. Physical sealing operations were underway to some degree in 1992, but were not really at the forefront of the overall effort – too many unavoidable gaping holes still remained in the building envelope.

However, as the year drew to a close, the final touches were made to the non-museum portion of the structure, and the move of employees to this space was completed, it became sadly apparent that our campaign was totally overwhelmed. by the vastly superior capabilities of the enemy. The rats, adults and juveniles, still roamed a brand new occupied space decidedly removed from the remaining construction areas. The sheer number of bodies that inevitably accompany undertakings of this nature (about 25 dead rats counted per week, on average) were offset by nighttime sightings of reinforcements rushing through the streets to enter the building.

We were about maxed out with the bait and trap setups (which I don’t particularly like to use near an office environment) and like so many other bumps in the road that occur around the world A hypersensitive federal bureaucracy, the issue had caught the attention of the highest levels of the executive. Obviously, it was also time to take the anti-rat component to a whole new level.

CHANGE OF PLANS. In conjunction with the GSA, NCR Alterations Branch, a plan was developed to methodically locate, record, and secure every unsealed penetration throughout the building that could potentially serve as rat access between rooms or floors, theoretically compartmentalizing the building. habitat to the point where it was no longer sustainable for rats to survive.

To my knowledge, nothing like this had ever been attempted on such a large scale. However, I was helped to sell the idea to senior management by a large coalition of agency architects, engineers and facility managers who were not at all happy with the abundance of holes that they found in every part of the newly completed structure that violated both code (e.g. fire-rated) and good building practice, and which, but for the rats, would be casually ignored in the name of getting the renovations done on time.

The big sealing program, immediately dubbed the “Hole Patrol,” took much of 1993 to accomplish. Using half an inch as a rough minimum, a construction company employee and a GSA field engineer systematically inspected the anatomy of the building for rat-vulnerable penetrations, documenting them on a checklist. indicating the size, location, type, repair responsibility and status of each opening.

Since laptop computers did not yet exist, each penetration was laboriously marked on two centralized sets of floor plans. Probably the most numerous category of holes – and the most popular with rats, due to their droppings – was associated with the infamous (to pest managers) finned tube baseboard heaters, the ubiquitous method of economically heating from large commercial or institutional buildings. which requires an integrated hot water piping system to run both horizontally and vertically along the boundary walls.

In particular, the risers of these systems tend to pass through extremely oversized penetrations which, because they are almost always out of sight, remain unsealed for the life of the building. Other extremely common openings were unplugged openings in the floor boxes of the raised floor panels. Additionally, however, the rogue’s gallery contained every type of architectural gap imaginable, such as holes associated with fiber optic and telephone line closets, conduits, ducts, cable trays, core drillings voids, expansion joints, misaligned ceiling tiles, doors, cafeteria cubicles, etc.

SUCCESS WITH A FEW CAVEATS. The project was both exhaustive and exhausting, and the last sentence of the Weathering Division Chief’s final report in December 1993 had a tone of goodbye and good riddance: “With the completion of this program inspection and repair, rat control has now shifted from the realm of construction to an operation and maintenance effort.

Indeed, by then, along with the completion of the museum and the closing of the building envelope, the problem of indoor rats had ceased to exist. Nearly 30 years later, despite the fact that legions of rodents are still an overwhelming presence on the outside, a sighting of a rat inside the structure (other than around its internal loading dock) is almost unknown. Nevertheless, any celebration of this achievement must be tempered by several caveats:

  • By severely restricting their movements (and no doubt increasing their stress), the extreme sealing campaign – in concert with baiting and trapping – undoubtedly contributed to the demise of the interior’s vast population of rats. of structure. It was also an invaluable boon to public relations with GSA’s client agencies. However, as a largely anecdotal event, it is impossible to say how long the problem would have persisted after construction was completed if the repair project had never taken place. In general, Norway rats are rarely long-term inhabitants in any average public or commercial building, beyond some vulnerable facilities on the ground floor.
  • As a prime example of large-scale pest control, it goes without saying that this outstanding exercise in rat prevention would be beyond the reach of most property management organizations. In fact, as a portrait of a young and rising IPM program flexing its muscles in the twilight of a golden age in the federal government, when such bold front-line efforts may have been proposed and even executed , it should be pointed out that funding support for such a large “hole patrol” would be unthinkable in the GSA these days.
  • The rats may be gone, but house mice are abundant in this building like any other comparable structure in DC, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. They fall below the threshold where feasible preventative measures involving access and food can effectively suppress them in large structures over the long term. Mouse IPM in the public and commercial sectors generally depends on old-fashioned harvesting (ideally by trapping) as the main bread-and-butter activity, rather than sealing operations or the occupants’ long-term cooperation with storage food and sanitation.
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