Preparing for winter: Inside the operations of the campus maintenance crew
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Preparing for winter: Inside the operations of the campus maintenance crew

The maintenance crew is crucial for preparing the campus for the cold winter season, which includes supplying heat to USD’s buildings, including hot water, to residence halls. For any cause of concerns for the heating, a company who offers services like an emergency furnace repair can ease the stress away.

Craig Franken, director of operations and maintenance, said the heating process and work of the maintenance crew that contributes to the supply of heat during winter time, as well as the change from cooling to heating, takes place in the Davidson building, located in between the library and Belbas Center.

He also said the central boiler heating plant, located in Davidson, heats up 98 percent of the buildings on campus, excluding just the DakotaDome and the Sanford School of  Medicine. 

Franken said the process begins first with shutting down the air conditioning and starting the boiling process, after which the buildings are supplied with heat.

“We’ve got about 10,000 feet boiler pipes that we have to heat up, and once heated up, has to be kept warm, otherwise the pipes shut off and bad things happen,” he said. If you want to have continuous heating during winter, it is advisable to contact a company that offers emergency boilers for rent in case something happens with your boilers. Having your heating system annually serviced by a heating contractor can also help prevent any mechanical issues with your heater, you can learn more here. They can also conduct furnace repair if they find mechanical issues with your furnace. Securing a warm temperature at the campus during the winter, the skilled technician performs a heat pump repairs service.

The maintenance team uses the reverse osmosis water system to ensure that the hot air diffused into the buildings is clean and safe.

“What happens is, in the fall, when it starts to get cool, we have to fill all of these (tanks) with reverse osmosis water which is expensive to make and is actually made in (the Davidson building),” Franken said.

This system gets rid of harmful chemicals from the water and removes odors from the tank before it is diffused into steam pipes and transported to campus buildings, Franken said.

“All of our chemicals are used in small amounts, we use them to keep everything in balance so that the water does not grow anything and the pipes do not chew up,” he said.

Franken said this process is entirely done by the maintenance crew and completing the operation without the use of contractors is easy to maintain and cost-effective.

“We have our own plants, we make all of our reverse osmosis water to fill all the tanks…that way it is the most cost-effective and safest route for the boilers and all the pieces of equipment we use,” Franken said.

The steam lines, which come out of Davidson, get directed to all the buildings on campus.

“We try and conserve as much water as we can since water is a precious resource,” he said.

Dealing with student complaints

Dasashe Gelaw, a senior health service administration major, said the heat control system is the main problem in North Complex since students are not able to control the heat levels in their rooms.

“The classrooms are good, but it gets hard in the rooms. In the winter when it’s really hot, we cannot turn it off and I feel students should be able to do that,” Gelaw said. “I feel like we (students) should be able to control our own heat. The (heating) system works well, but not how students would like it to function.”

Thodah Hovor, junior medical laboratory science major and a resident in Burgess residence hall, said she is satisfied with the amount of heat in the dorms.

“First of all, I like the heat, and in my opinion maintenance is doing good, because it gets really cold and the heat is on for use,” Hovor said. “The thing is that once the heat is switched on, the air conditioning is switched off, but I am still able to reduce the temperature if it gets too hot.”

Aware of the complaints, Franken said the warmth experienced in buildings was because the switch to heat occurs before a sudden change in weather, making it hard for an immediate back change to air-conditioning.

“At this time of the year, it is either too hot or too cold and most of the time, it is too warm because we’ve started the boilers,” he clarified.

Franken said it is difficult to pick the perfect time to switch from air conditioning to heat.

“There is a lot more when it comes to heating and cooling in this place,” he said. “It is a constant fight every year to try to pick the perfect time.”