Underground leak postpones cooling system

May 6, 2013 6:00 AMComments Off

Story by Emily Gregor

Last week, spring had sprung on Drake University’s campus.  The students could be seen throwing Frisbee discs in Helmick Commons, doing their homework on the picnic tables outside, and conversing casually under the shady trees by the library.

“I’m totally fine with the heat outside, it’s spring and it’s finally happening after the long weeks of the rain and snow that we’ve had,” first-year student Nick Baker said.

Despite the joys of moving past the dreary winter weather, the buildings on campus had skipped spring altogether and moved straight to summer causing discomfort for students and faculty members alike.

“I think it is something that really needs to be looked into,” sophomore Emily Gonser said.  “It makes for a very uncomfortable learning environment.”

In addition to overall feelings of discomfort, the heat has taken a toll on productivity and motivation, an already challenging feat as the school year comes to a close.

“It’s hard to stay concentrated and focus on anything else going on,” Gonser said.

This obvious issue unfortunately doesn’t have an obvious solution. The heating and cooling systems are more complicated than they seem, and Director of Facilities Mark Chambers explained how they work.

“Operating an HVAC system this large is a bit more complicated than switching the thermostat from heating to cooling,” Chambers said.

Chambers said that there are two cooling systems on campus, one west and one east, with the 28th Street plaza being the dividing line, and they are based on chilled water piped underground through campus.

“During start up operations a few weeks ago, we discovered an underground leak outside Olin, the west loop,” Chambers said.

His description explained why the cooling problems are happening in the first place, and he said that the leak was excavated and is being repaired. Since they couldn’t finish filling the system until the leak is repaired, however, campus isn’t able to cool off.

There’s also another technicality with the system currently in place.

“The system was set up that heating and cooling cannot run at the same time and there is a ‘switch over’ period of about two to three days, assuming no leaks,” Chambers said.

Even though the logic makes sense, that hasn’t stopped students from showing signs of distress at the heat. For one of first-year student Laurel Haxton’s classes, the heat was so unbearable, her professor ended up dismissing class early.

“Everyone is miserable,” she said.  “The professors are miserable, the Sodexo workers, and even the little mice in Stalnaker are miserable.”

Students are also having a hard time getting comfortable when they are trying to settle down for some shut-eye. Haxton stressed that one cannot keep their door open at night, and since she has allergies, keeping the window open sounds far from appealing, causing her nights to be anything but restful.

“Honestly, I’d rather wear a sweatshirt than die of heat exhaustion,” she said.

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