Faculty House sustained ‘significant damage’ after steam pipe burst

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Tucker Covey

The WKU Faculty House, on top of the hill on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022.

Michael Crimmins, Adminstration reporter

Western Kentucky University’s Provost Bud Fischer told faculty members that the Faculty House had “significant damage” at the Dec. 15 Senate meeting.

Bryan Russell, chief facilities officer, said the damage was caused by a steam pipe bursting. 

“We’ve had a steam line rupture over the Thanksgiving Break period,” Russell said. “It wasn’t discovered until several days later. That building is not utilized a lot so nobody knew it was coming in through the basement and the steam was going up inside the wall cavities, which made its way up to an unoccupied [room].”

Due to the Faculty House going largely unused as the Faculty Senate, who used the building most frequently, had gone entirely to Zoom, Russell said the steam went unnoticed and condensed and molded. 

“It was just raining inside there,” Russell said. “It all condensed [on the] ceiling and walls and drywall. It created a lot of mess.”

Russell said the WKU Facilities is working with Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling of Bowling Green KY to clean up the mess and to “take down the saturated drywall.”

Until the cleanup is finished, Russell said, the building is closed.

“It molded up pretty good and we’re just having to kind of shut the building down until we get it all cleaned up and taken care of.”

The Faculty House was built in the 1920s and was used for a variety of purposes, most recently hosting weddings and celebrations, Russell said. At one time, the Faculty House had steam pipes for heating.

Russell said there are roughly three miles of steam pipes running underneath the campus. He said the pipes were installed in the 1960s and because of their age, and due to the pipes expanding and contracting with the heat, the pipes failed.

A pipe near the Preston Center broke recently as well, Russell said. WKU Facilities are working to replace or remove the old steam pipes.

“We’re replacing a lot of that old, old, old 1960s piping and this one just failed,” Russell said. “We didn’t see it because it wasn’t coming out outside, it was coming up in the building.”

Russell said he did not have a timeline of the repairs yet, Paul Davis is focusing on removing the damaged drywall and mold right now.

“We haven’t evaluated how to put it back together yet,” Russell said. “We’re doing the emergency remediation of the damage so we can do a fuller assessment next semester.” 

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]