Why is the E&H Campus Steaming?

Jessica Branks, News Writer • jsbranks16@ehc.edu

Orion Rummler

Excavation is currently under way in front of the Martin Brock Student Center to patch holes in the steam pipes that run underground in that area. However, that is not the only area where the heating system has been a problem, and this is not a new issue.

Scott Williams, the Director of Facilities, Planning and Management explained that “with a system this old, we’re chasing our own tails and trying to fix problems as they
arise.” Several of the buildings on campus, including Wiley Hall, the Chapel, Byars, and the Martin Brock student center are heated through old-fashioned boiler systems, according to Williams. Two electric boiler systems send steam to these buildings through underground pipes, and then transfer heat to water-based heating systems in each of the connected buildings.

The condensed water, or condensate, is then pumped or gravity fed back to the boilers. The pipes that feed these systems run underground throughout campus, and there are concrete steam chambers wherever these pipes intersect. The boilers that create the steam necessary to heat the campus buildings once ran on wood, then coal, and now are electric and somewhat more efficient than they were previously. Historically, the campus ran off four boiler tanks, and now the system is down to using two.

One of them is enough to heat the buildings. Some buildings, such as Stuart and Hillman Hall have their own independent boiler systems, which run more efficiently.

While the area in front of Martin Brock is the most recent leak, and the most severe of the current problems facing the antiquated system, it is far from the only one.

Leaks have sprung in the past in steam pipes, water pipes and condensate pipes alike, and the pipes themselves are not insulated, which leads to energy loss. Steam itself escapes from the system at multiple points on campus, and the places where this happens are not always predictable.

Williams said “we never had a problem at Scarborough House, the ID Center, and now, all of a sudden
there’s a steam leak there.”

While there is no lack of motivation to fix the infrastructure problems on campus, according to Williams, there is a lack of funding.

Money for improvements largely comes from the Board of Trustees, and they have yet to approve the replacement of the system in its entirety.

Williams said “we developed this plan to replace them [the pipes], and become decentralized. They didn’t go for that.”

The estimated cost for a project of that magnitude is $3 million

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