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Sawtooth Hall grapples with complications five years after opening

Photo by Taylor Humby | The Arbiter

According to Boise State’s on-campus housing options, the second most expensive dorm, excluding meal plans, is Sawtooth Hall (Honors College Housing) at $7,296 per year, right behind University Suites which is listed at $7,500. 

Though the dorm is on the pricier side of on-campus housing options, it isn’t free from complications. 

David Bridgeman is a senior at Boise State University majoring in media arts. 

Bridgeman lived in Sawtooth Hall for two years before moving to Lincoln Townhomes. He said the dorms were nice on the surface, but it seemed to him and other residents that the building was poorly constructed. Behind the modernity of the building is a list of concerns including inoperable elevators, consistent flooding and unpredictable fire alarms.

According to Bridgeman, he and his three roommates had all been stuck in the elevators at one point during their time at Sawtooth. Additionally, only two of the building’s four elevators were operational at any given time during the fall 2021 semester. 

On top of the elevator concerns were the frequent fire alarms, rarely triggered by an actual fire. 

“The fire alarms went off several times. I would say for the entire first semester last year, the fire alarms would go off maybe once a week, once every two weeks. It varied,” Bridgeman said. “It would go off, be on for like ten seconds and then shut itself off.”

Once, the alarm went off after a student started a fire in their dorm. Like many other residents, Bridgeman and his roommates ignored the alarm because they figured it was another false notice. 

“My roommates and I walked out of our rooms and were just like, ‘Eh, whatever. It’s just another one of those things.’ Eventually we looked out into the hall, and we saw other people walking,” Bridgeman said.

After noticing others were leaving, Bridgeman and his roommates left the building. The sprinklers that followed damaged multiple rooms and left a number of students displaced, according to Bridgeman.

Linda Tieck, executive director of Housing and Residence Life, said that about 20 students were displaced due to the flooding, but that the system did its job. She said the fire alarm malfunctions were due to construction on the elevator systems. 

Students walk on sidewalk toward the entrance of Sawtooth Hall
[Students walk out of Sawtooth Hall.]
Photo by Taylor Humby | The Arbiter

“Anytime you are doing a construction project you run the risk of fire alarms going off. Especially in the middle of the day, it can be very frustrating and very annoying,” Tieck said. “Contractors should know better as to if they are going to be working with a bunch of dust.”

Ashlee Brookes is currently a sophomore majoring in veterinary science at Clark College. She was a Sawtooth resident last year as a freshman pre-nursing major. Brookes said that when arriving as a freshman, the broken elevators left a bad impression on her parents and that she was surprised by the lack of communication over the faulty fire alarms.

“I believe the malfunctioning fire alarms were kinda thrown to the side. It was like an unspoken issue that everyone was pissed about,” Brookes wrote in a text message to The Arbiter. “The fire alarms would go off in the middle of the night while I was sleeping and it was always false.”

Freshman finance major Gavin Manning, a current Sawtooth resident, said that he heard the fire alarm the night of Sept. 5, 2022, and his resident assistant told him it was a glitch in the system.

Junior material science and engineering major Mason Fort also attested to these issues with Sawtooth that included constant construction on the elevators that would trigger fire alarms early in the morning and loud air conditioning.

“All-in-all, even though the internet is four times slower here at Lincoln [Townhomes], I’m having a much better time with my housing this year than last year,” Fort wrote in an email to The Arbiter.

For some students, the promise of “luxury amenities” and Tempurpedic beds were not worth the inaccessible elevators and risk of displacement over flooding.

“I feel like at this point Boise State must have spent way more money on repairing the building then they would have if they just constructed it well in the first place.” Bridgeman said.

Tieck said that, despite people wondering if the building’s problems are due to bad materials or design, Sawtooth was constructed based on legal code that the school and the private contractors had to follow.

“Idaho has code. A lot of the time we are trying to build things better than the code,” Tieck said.

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