While people around campus have been enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures outdoors, a problem has been posed for the University of Wisconsin’s indoor temperature maintenance.
UW Facilities, Planning, & Management is in charge of cooling the 120 buildings on campus, and this early warm spell has posed a difficulty for controlling the temperature of the buildings around campus.
Work on cooling the buildings usually starts in April as the normal cooling season is May 1 to Oct. 15. However, these tentative dates are subject to change based off of the weather patterns, according to a UW statement.
Faramarz Vakili, associate director of the Physical Plant at Facilities, Planning, & Management, acknowledges the difficulty associated with the presence of this unexpected early heat.
“We are trying to do what we can with the premature weather. We have a priority system that we have started doing in the past two weeks,” he said.
The 120 buildings cooled by the central chilled water system are not just cooled by the flick of a switch like in most household cooling systems, according to the statement.
Chilled water is circulated through the cooling coils of several hundred air-handling units around campus buildings, and to chill the buildings these then push cool, conditioned air into occupied space, Vakili said.
Because these coils are drained at the end of the cooling season, they need to be refilled when the cooling season begins again. This is done to protect the coils from freezing in the winter season. This is a time-consuming process, and is the reason why cooling takes between three and four weeks to complete, Vakili added.
Vakili said the temperature is expected to drop in the next couple of days, which may slow down the cooling process in buildings even further.
“There is still a possibility of ending up with cold weather. We do not want to freeze the coils. If the building is not needing cooling, we will not risk that,” he said.
According to the Physical Plant Facility, the priority system is put in place to ensure a smooth transition from the heating and cooling system. It consists of four tiers.
According to the tier system, buildings of the first priority include UW Hospitals and Clinics where life and safety is in danger. Second priority is buildings and rooms that have animals or involve temperature sensitive experiments and essential server rooms. Vakili said Facilities, Planning, & Management has completed the first and second tier.
The third tier, known as intermediate critical, is now underway, he said. This consists of buildings with sealed windows, high heat generating equipment and high occupancy fluctuation.
Vakili said the final tier of priority is the least critical, and that the cooling process on this tier has not yet begun. This tier includes buildings with operable windows for ventilation that do not have temperature-affected experiments.
Vakili says there have been some complaints about the heat in the past few days, but for the most part people have been understanding that this is a surprise.