Need advice on a weird people/ego/technical/safety issue

I haven’t been back here for ages, but thought I can get some advice here. I can’t figure out what category this fits. Architecture? Furniture? Material and process?

Over the past week, I’ve been helping out at a renovation of a elementary school library space. The design and construction of the project is run by a volunteer group. Basically, there’s a group leader who does logistics, paper works, press and make things happen. Then there’s a main designer who designs and over sees the process. Both of whom are architects, young architects.

The rest of the group consists of architecture and non-design students, all volunteers. I was pulled in to help out without knowing what to expect, ended up teaching these kids how to properly pull a nail.

So here’s a big problem that I see. Without criticizing the design, I see major safety issue with the way the design is being put together. Basically, it’s a class room sized space. There are two big wall mounted shelves on opposing walls. These shelves are assembled in intersecting style. Imagine cutting slits in foam cores and slide them against each other to make a perpendicular structure. The material used is low grade plywood. The shelves are about 10ft wide by 8ft tall each without loading support at the base. So it’s completely wall mounted.

My problem is with how the shelves are held to the walls. Nail guns, with 1"x1" low grade stock wood that twists under exposure to humidity. It’s hard to describe how things are mounted without a diagram, but it’s 2am now and I can’t sleep because of this issue, I don’t have a scanner or tablet to draw it. Anyways, the 1X1 wood stocks are vertically mounted to the concrete wall with nail gun nails. The vertical pieces of the shelves are then stapled to the wood stocks from the side. That’s all the fastening mechanism there is to hold the entire weight of the book shelf(plus books when it is in use, and potentially kids climbing it).

My concerns:

  1. Those nails are tiny. I don’t care how many there are, they are tiny.
  2. I’ve never seen any one using nail guns nails as holders of structural elements, mostly as place holders or non structural fasteners.
  3. Nail gun nails against concrete? That’s a first for me.
  4. The 1x1 wood stock is going to split open under humidity.
  5. The site is right on the coast(you can hear the waves beat the rocks in the classrooms). Tropical climate. Salt + humidity+ heat.
  6. The rust is going to eat away the nails like they were never there at all.
  7. It’s on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Means earthquakes. Just had a typhoon too.
  8. Kids may die or suffer from broken vertebrates.

I am not one of the “designers on board” but I raised the issue twice. Since they are rushing to complete the project by Sunday, they are just moving on with what’s already been done. I have made specific suggestions on how to strengthen the mounting, which is by introducing angled brackets in unseen places, mounted to the wall using proper concrete fasteners. There will be minimum impact to the budget, the design as well as schedule. No action was taken.

Before I go ahead and school them in the morning, I want to hear from you guys if you think my concerns are valid or if I am over reacting. Perhaps, how else I can approach this?

I am planning to go have a serious talk with them, with all the major figures on this project together. I will raise my points and concerns and potential(very likely) hazards. I will tell them that if they are worried about the schedule, fine, I will do it myself, on my own cost after the hand over ceremony is completed. I just ask the school not to use the room before the re enforcement is completed.

What do you think?

Another serious note, I see furniture as micro architecture. If an architect can’t even design a structurally sound book shelf, I really want to know which architecture projects he/she has been involved in, because I will avoid those places at all cost.

Are you still in Columbia? dosn’t a building inspector have to approve the construction if it’s attatched to a wall?


California, right? Aren’t there building codes and inspectors approving the project step by step - after the project coordinator/contractor pulled the appropriate permits?

I agree with all your concerns.

The horizontal supports can’t be held to concrete with nail gun nails - that’s absurd - they should be set into place with caulked construction adhesive then supported with concrete screws (which are chemically treated to prevent corrosion) driven every 16" if there will be a load (books, etc).

1" x 1" strips are not much more than furring strips and certainly shouldn’t be used in that application.

I think I follow you on the method of shelving (sliding one against the other) and it does not sound like a structurally solid approach.


i now see some angled brackets in place, but not sure if there will be more.