Outdated systems cause sweltering classrooms

By Gus Bode

Temperatures may be nice and warm outside, but conditions inside some classrooms, housing areas and the child development lab are a different story.

Older buildings on campus have had uncomfortable temperatures throughout the week as unseasonably high temperatures have swept into Carbondale.

Phil Gatton, director of Plant and Service Operations, said there is no simple control for the university’s heating and cooling systems.’ With the weather changing so rapidly from 60s to 30s within a day, he said the heating system could not be turned off.


‘It’s not a simple switch,’ Gatton said. ‘It’s very difficult to make that change.’

The heat inside Quigley Hall forced the Child Development Lab to close Monday as temperatures in the room reached above 80 degrees, said Lori Vanhorn, director of the lab.

The Department of Child and Family Services requires the day care to close when the inside temperature reaches 82 degrees or above.

She said fluctuating temperatures because of the heating and cooling systems have plagued the university for decades.’

Crystal Bouhl, a spokeswoman for University Housing, said the students in the residence halls have noticed the temperature change.

‘A few residents started asking if we could make the halls cooler during the past few unseasonably warm days,’ Bouhl said.

Bouhl said she it takes time to make the switch from hot to cooler air. Typically, she said students are understanding and prefer knowing their buildings would be warm for colder weather.


University spokesman Rod Sievers said the switch from hot to cold air could only be done once per season. He said February is too early to make the switch and it would not be done before March or April.

He said if the system was switched to the cooling system now, then the cold days ahead would result in frigid and uncomfortable classrooms.

The switch can only be made once per season because it takes more than six hours to adjust each building, Gatton said.

Newer buildings have a lot more control because they are automated, but the buildings from 1900 to 1960s have outdated cooling systems.

Administrators plan to update those systems in 2012, he said.

He said the goal is to have a more effective and energy efficient system. The students pay a facility fee to help cover the costs of renovations. Gatton said students pay $16 now. This fee may increase by 3 percent per credit hour, but will be capped at 12 hours, he said.

But until the systems are updated, people in older buildings will be forced to deal with the uncomfortable conditions, Vanhorn said.

Students with concerns can call a 24-hour hotline at 453-3621, Gatton said. If several students complain about an area, Physical Plant employees will check it out to be sure failed equipment is not responsible for the problem, he said.