Air-conditioning in several campus buildings shutdown to cut energy costs

Hollan Holm

New energy-saving measures in buildings on campus are leading to nightly air-conditioning shutdowns.

Temperature settings in several buildings are being increased on nights and weekends this semester so Western can save money on utility bills, said Doug Ault, director of Facilities Management.

Ben Johnson, project manager for the energy efficiency renovations, compared the adjustments to turning up the thermostat before going on a long vacation.

The scheduled turnoffs, in addition to other mechanical and lighting upgrades in campus buildings, are expected to save Western more than $250,000 in a year, Johnson said.

Under the energy-saving system, temperatures in the buildings are held to around 78 degrees overnight. Johnson said the high-energy consuming portions of air-conditioning units are taken off line during off-peak hours, cutting utility bills.

Shutdowns in two buildings – Cherry Hall and Tate Page Hall – have caused problems for groups like the William E. Bivin Forensics Society, which use the buildings at night.

The forensics team practices three nights a week in Cherry Hall until 10:30 p.m.

Forensics director Judy Woodring said she brought a fan into her office to combat the heat.

“It was hot,” Woodring said. “It was unbearably hot.”

The integration of old heating and air-conditioning equipment with new equipment has caused problems in Cherry that have kept the air off beyond 5 a.m., the schedule time for it to restart, Johnson said.

Cherry and Tate Page were recently removed from the list of buildings with systems routinely shutdown. The buildings will be placed on the list again when crews make repairs to the heating and air-conditioning systems in Cherry, Johnson said.

No date has been set for their return to the shut down schedule.

Grise Hall, Environmental Sciences and Technology Building, Helm-Cravens Library and the Academic Complex are on the shutdown schedule, Ault said.

Ault said he will weigh factors such as the size, energy use and energy savings opportunities to determine if any other buildings on campus will be added to the air-conditioning shutdown schedule.

No dorms will undergo air conditioning shutdowns.

Reach Hollan Holm at [email protected]