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Students weigh in on problems with dorm heating

Facilities management aims to give students more control over heating in residence halls

Though Department of Facilities Management officials said service requests are usually addressed within 48 hours, several students said they have had to make multiple requests and wait more than three days for dorm heating issues to be addressed.

Facilities management usually turns the heating on in residence halls in October or November and tries to maintain temperatures around 70 degrees, though there is sometimes a two-degree discrepancy, said Chris Powell, director of sustainable energy and environmental initiatives for facilities management. Students’ heating complaints tend to be caused by minor issues like curtains or furniture blocking radiation, which prevents natural convection, he said.

Other heating issues arise out of project renovations because facilities management and outside contractors only have a small amount of time “to complete a project and carry out test check and repairs,” he said.

Powell said facilities management usually responds to complaints within two days, and Carlos Fernandez, assistant vice president for facilities, operations and engineering, said student service requests are given priority if heating is malfunctioning.

Ralitza Dekova ’14, said a facilities management representative responded to her heating issue for her suite in Young Orchard 10 and told her the heating system was functioning normally, though the initial problem persisted. She called facilities management a second time and an issue with the boiler room was then discovered, she said.

Andrea Chiang ’15, who lives in Graduate Center, said no one responded to her service request surrounding a heating issue by the scheduled deadline to have the work completed. She said she had to call facilities management directly before someone came to address the problem.

Mai Ly ’16, who lives in Morris Hall, said she thinks Facilities Management does a good job keeping residence halls warm, despite some minor issues.

Chiang said she understands that facilities has a lot of work, but added that heating is essential for most students during winter months. “If we have to pay so much for room and board, I should have basic heating,” she said.

Some heating fluctuations result from different insulation and heating systems, Powell said. The University is aware of the need to renovate and pursue more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly initiatives, he said.

Initiatives like the “Deep Dorm Energy Efficiency Project” aim to improve the heating in residence halls, Powell said. Some changes already implemented under this program include better-insulated and stronger windows and temperature knobs for students to control the warmth of their individual rooms, he added. Though the temperature in residence halls is managed by a central control system, the new temperature knobs allow students to shift temperatures within two degrees, he said.

Facilities management wants to convert more buildings from steam heating to hot water heating, Powell said. The University currently uses steam, hot water and central forced air for heating on campus, he added, and hot water heating is more manageable because it is a more accurate temperature control.

Heating costs currently take up around 20 percent of the utilities budget, which is about $20 million, according to facilities management.

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