Today on Blogcritics
Home » Culture and Society » Fact Checking an Occupy Austin Protestor

Fact Checking an Occupy Austin Protestor

When I went to visit with the protesters at Occupy Austin a couple of weeks ago, I met Amber, age 24, who complained, “Why are there so many people that don’t have Medicare? They are just on the street dying because they can’t afford the right medications.”When asked about how to pay for increased coverage (which I would love to see happen) She replied, “This beautiful building [Austin City Hall] right here is made out of copper. Seventeen ($17) million dollars of copper just setting there on that roof. I mean, why can’t they just put regular brick or glass on top of the building like all the rest of them? Why is the $17 million just setting there? You know $17 million dollars can feed so many people and help so many people out.”

I was astounded. Was this true? So I began to research it. Yes there is copper on the roof and ceiling of the building., according to multiple sources. One such source, copper.org, notes that when visitors enter the building, they find themselves standing in a canyon-like space that reaches four stories to a reflective bronze ceiling with catwalks spanning the openness at each level.

This is all part of the city of Austin’s green initiative. The copper.org site tells us that there are 66,000 square feet (or more than a football field’s worth) of copper, which is used primarily to wrap the top half of the building. All of the 12-inch-wide copper-clad panels have been treated with a light oil coating to slow their patination.

Due to the low amount of sulfur in Austin’s air, it is expected that the copper will first turn in about 30 years. With the building having so few 90 degree angles it was critical to find a material that could be fitted to almost any shape. Something that copper was thought to be the best choice for.

The copper exterior of the building will last two to three times longer than other exterior materials, resulting in the consumption of from a third to a half less material over the building’s life expectancy.

In the lobby, a bronze ceiling reflects the sun coming in from the skylight into the space below. In the council chamber, 16 corrugated copper clouds dominate the ceiling, acting as both design features and acoustical panels. Finally, the fact that the copper has 82 percent recycled content helped contribute to its award of the LEED prize for using recycled materials.

Further, the only energy needed to make cladding from recycled copper is for the heat to melt it just 15 percent of the total energy that would have been consumed if it had been mined, milled, smelted and refined from ore. This translates into big energy savings, as more than 80 percent of the copper used to make architectural sheet products is derived from recycled copper.

Finally, copper cladding will last two or three times longer than other exterior materials, resulting in the consumption of from a third to a half less material over a building’s lifetime.

- Copper.org

But is it really $17 million in copper alone? I mean the city’s own website said the building cost $56 million to build, so would the copper really take that much of the building costs? According to copper.org, “If our Lincoln pennies were still made of copper (they are copper-coated zinc now), more than 12 million Lincoln coins would have been needed to construct this City Hall building in Austin, Texas.”

With its multiple angles and sharp curves, the unique four story 115,000-square-foot building, which opened in late 2004 and cost $56 million to construct, is almost entirely clad in copper.

 For the record, 12 million pennies amount to only $120,000, but the copper value is more than that, so the question remains: is it really $17 million in that building? It is a question that I asked the city’s media relations department. Is this fact or just an exaggeration by some overzealous critics? At the time of publication my phone calls and emails have been unanswered. I however, will keep vigilant to find out the answer. I believe you should know the facts, because I want to know. Is the city hiding the truth from us (is that why it has been nearly two weeks since I first asked and there has been no return call?) or is it overzealous protestors misrepresenting the numbers? I want you to know.

About Kansasman

  • Baronius

    Well, if a copper penny weighs 3.11 grams, then 12 million of them would weigh 37320000 grams, or 82277 pounds. With copper at $3.53 per pound, that’s about $300,000. That’s not counting any special metalwork costs.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dave might know the facts behind the facts, he lives there or thereabouts.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    so does Kevin, the author of the piece

  • http://www.wisdomsteps101.net Kevin Surbaugh

    Dave Nalle is now a Republican State Representative in the state legislature. He was elected a few months after I arrived here last year.

    The city did get back with me today and here is what they had to say,
    Good afternoon Mr. Surbaugh,

    Per your request for information below I provide the following information.

    The “copper skin” on City Hall is valued at $2,545,000 which includes materials and labor to install the copper cladding system (fiberglass decking, waterproofing and copper) inside and outside of the building. This figure does not include the copper clouds located in the Council Chamber, which were $250,000 for materials and labor. Eighty-two (82%) percent of all copper used on the building was recycled copper.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    “Dave Nalle is now a Republican State Representative in the state legislature. He was elected a few months after I arrived here last year.”

    Are you sure? He’s not listed.

  • Maurice

    The opulence of our government buildings has long troubled me. I once visited our governors office in the capital building here in Boise Idaho. He had just had his office redecorated at a cost of $3 million. Since he was a civil war aficionado he had real uniforms from both sides on display. His office was large enough for the many displays and still had a stunning meeting table that was huge. That governors name was Dirk Kempthorne.

    I contrast that with my CEO who has a rather functional office that is free of all pretension.

    It is wrong for our civil ‘servants’ to squander the hard earned money from tax payers.

  • Clavos

    It is wrong for our civil ‘servants’ to squander the hard earned money from tax payers.

    And they do — egregiously.

  • Igor

    To be fair, private company executive offices are often opulent and very privileged. we are all familiar with “mahogany row” and “the tower”, etc.

    The opulence disease is carried back and forth between private and public institutions, and they refer to each other for justification.

  • Clavos

    To be fair, private company executive offices are often opulent and very privileged. we are all familiar with “mahogany row” and “the tower”, etc.

    So what? They aren’t spending the people’s money taken from them by force of law.

    The thieves in Washington are.

  • http://www.wisdomsteps101.net Kevin Surbaugh

    I have to agree with Clavos on this one. Igor is comparing private sector and private money to government offices using tax money taken from you and me. I should have a say in that.
    While I commend the City of Austin for wanting to go green and while the protestor wildly misrepresented the numbers, the amount spent on building city hall was still to expensive as was the nearly three million dollars spent on buying the the recycled copper and installing it alone. Something has to be done about this kind of government waste. I mean what was wrong with the “old” city hall anyway? Just a waste of our tax dollars is all it was. Of course this building was built before I moved to Texas, but still the protestor brought up a very good point.

  • Igor

    One is a government monopoly and the other is a commercial monopoly. I have no more control over the opulence of Apple offices in my market choices than I have over the opulence of DMV offices at the voting place.

    And we are rapidly institutionalizing commercial monopolies with lax anti-trust enforcement and government re-enforcement their opulent contracts.

  • Clavos

    I have no more control over the opulence of Apple offices in my market choices…

    Nor should you, if you’re not a stakeholder.

    Unfortunately, we’re ALL stakeholders in the government — with, as you say, no control over it.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Still waiting to hear more about Rep. Nalle, so feel free to explain, Kevin

  • Maurice

    When I think of “civil servants” entrusted with tax payer dollars I don’t envision 3 million dollar upgrades to already outlandishly sized offices.

    My CEO (Micron Technology) is responsible for 25,000 employees and a 5 billion dollar enterprise. He has an office that is 12 by 15. He is focused on the business. Not the pretension.

  • Jordan Richardson

    You should build him some kind of golden statue to further evince your devotion.

  • Clavos

    Don’t know Maurice’s CEO, but being devoted to him probably is no worse than being devoted to Obama.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Okay?

  • http://www.wisdomsteps101.net Kevin Surbaugh

    according to micron.com the CEO is a Steve Appleton. I have never heard of him or of Micron for that matter, but their website says they make computer memory.
    A look at Wikipedia it says that Forbes Magazine named Steve as one of the WORST 10 CEO back in 2006. In fact a quick Google search revealed he was #1 on Forbes list of Worst Performing Bosses that year.
    Very different from Maurice’s high praise for the man. Further according to Forbes he is paid $1.47 million/year. Not the highest but certainly a very extravagant pay, which is part of what the Occupy movement is upset about.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Don’t know Maurice’s CEO, but being devoted to him probably is no worse than being devoted to Obama.

    I don’t do devotion so it’s tricky for me to understand, but Maurice’s CEO is at least known personally by Maurice, so his love of the man is most likely based on a bit more than politics and public image.

  • Clavos

    according to Forbes he is paid $1.47 million/year. Not the highest but certainly a very extravagant pay, which is part of what the Occupy movement is upset about.

    Upset? Who cares? It’s none of their business unless they are stakeholders in Micron.