Fall is a season of change at Maryville College. The leaves of the college woods fade to a rich amber, students clothe themselves in autumnal colored sweaters, and temperatures within a number of campus dormitories quickly become unpleasant.
“When the seasons change it gets really uncomfortable,” said Brinley Knowles, Maryville College junior. “Right now, I get really warm because our room is in the direct sunlight and the air conditioning is no longer on. So, it gets very hot.”
Buildings such as Copeland, Gamble, Davis and Gibson suffer from this problem during seasonal changes due to older heating and cooling methods.
“All of these mentioned buildings are on a two-pipe system,” said Reggie Dailey, director of the Maryville College physical plant. “On this system, you can either have air [from the steam plant] flowing over cold water to cool the room or hot water that flows to heat the room. You cannot have both. There’s only one set of pipes in the whole building.”
During this time of fluctuation, the rooms are either very hot or very cold. Turning the temperature control completely off is not an option.
“During the fall, it’s difficult to decide whether to remain at the cool air or switch to hot air,” said Dailey. “We do the best we can and look at forecasting every day, but it can’t get close to freezing while the cool air is still on or else the pipes may burst and the water chiller will freeze.” If the pipes do freeze over then it is costly to the college, and damages the dormitory.
“We can’t risk damaging extremely valuable equipment” said Dailey. While students may sweat in rooms over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or shiver in dorms below 70 degrees Fahrenheit during this time, residential comfort plays a large role in deciding when and where heat will be supplied to campus.
“Res life works with the physical plant pretty directly to decide when the heat will be turned on,” said Caroline Terry, Assistant Director of Residence Life. “It’s kind of a balancing act between what the physical plant’s needs are, such as making sure we maintain the integrity of the steam plant, and the buildings and the pipes, and having a balance of our needs and our student’s needs.”
In order to try and maintain a comfortable environment while also ensuring infrastructural integrity, the target temperature of the air that comes out of the system into the building during the summer months is roughly 55 degrees and the temperature of the air during the winter months is 75 degrees.
“I am sensitive to [student comfort] and that’s why so much planning goes into this. We take input from Res life and consider the health of the buildings and the students. I wait till the very last minute to make the temperature changes.”
Currently, no plans have been made public to refurbish or replace these older air conditioning techniques and equipment. In the meantime, open a window, invest in a fan, and don’t go to a sauna. You’ll be living in one for the next few weeks.