Maintenance staff addresses heating, cooling issues in Old Main


Leah Ulatowski

Old Main is one of the oldest buildings on campus which has required maintenance work over the years.

Leah Ulatowski and Heather Ross

With the variable fall weather upon us, it can be difficult for students to know how to dress for classes. Will today be warm, or cold? For students attending classes in Old Main, the question also applies to classroom temperatures.

While classrooms in the lower levels tend to be chilly regardless of outside temperature, those on the upper floors tend to be warm –uncomfortably so earlier in the semester, according to several students.

Darrin Pribbernow, junior criminal justice major, said that he skipped class earlier in the semester due to a medical condition that would make sitting in Old Main’s stuffy temperatures “dangerous.”

“I skipped a class because it was 85 minutes long and I had a 55 minute long class in the same room immediately beforehand and couldn’t handle the heat anymore,” Pribbernow said.

Jacque Roerdink, senior sociology major, is pregnant. Earlier in the semester, she “had a hard time with all day sickness from pregnancy mixed with stifling temperatures in Old Main.”

“If the AC is broken, take the bolts out of the building’s windows so they can be opened,” Roerdink said. “There is no reason why we should all have to sit in that heat with no air flow.”

Upon learning that the classroom windows were screwed shut with special tamper-proof screws, members of the Mirror staff went in search of answers.

Rich Haen, senior director of facilities management and security, explained the reasoning behind the sealed windows and uneven temperatures in Old Main. The current heating and cooling system, installed in 1992-93, relies on a closed air exchange process. The system responds to temperatures in different areas of the building, and adjusts its output to address any changes.

According to Haen, opening windows interferes with the proper air flow and response mechanism, requiring a reset of the system. Also, since the windows are at the end of their useful life, they are often difficult and sometimes almost impossible to close, leaving the rooms vulnerable to moisture damage.

The heating and cooling system has also reached the end of its useful age, and is currently scheduled for replacement next year. In the meantime, the air handler is failing, and parts are no longer available to fix it. Maintenance staff has worked to find replacement parts online, but have not always been able to find them.

While the system has been slated for replacement in 2016-17, there have been some events hastening its demise. Even though there is a grounding system in place, the unit was hit by lightning in September of this year. This caused damage to the cooling system in Old Main, as well as a need to reprogram the elevator, Laun’s air conditioner and repair the electric panel in the Ley Chapel.

While the lack of air conditioning in Old Main has caused discomfort and even health concerns for some students who then needed to miss their classes, the current boiler project has had to take fiscal precedence over any repairs.

Any questions can be directed to Rich Haen, (920) 565-1031, Extension 2266.