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Utilities more than 99% reliable in current academic year

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

Utilities issues at Ohio State’s Columbus campus this academic year haven’t been limited to just the $3 million Park-Stradley water main break. Gas outages, power outages and other water main breaks have seemingly plagued the residence hall, yet utilities have had better than 99 percent reliability rate.
“A preliminary review indicates there have been 13 loss of utility incidents since July 1, 2012,” Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for OSU Administration and Planning, said in an email. “Utilities’ records include 61 planned construction outages for the same period.”
Many of these outages are documented in a timeline found on The Lantern‘s website.
However, the length of the outages still can’t be explained.
“We do not measure ‘downtime’ in number of outages, rather we track outages and other metrics based on the number of hours in a year and customers served because this is a better indication of the reliability of our systems,” Komlanc said.
Records from Facilities Operations and Development show that OSU utilities were functional more than 99 percent of the time from 2008 to 2012.
The type of outage is also a consideration. Loss of steam for heating purposes is less critical in the summer, and loss of chilled water used for cooling is less of an issue in the winter.
“If the chilled water loop is not cold enough, buildings will get hot. In the case of computer servers, research labs or hospital operating rooms, temperature control is critical,” Komlanc said. “For this reason, chilled water temperature excursions over 46 degrees are counted as an emergency outage.”
OSU did not hit its target reliability goal last year.

“2012 is one of the two years that we missed our goal by less than two-tenths of a percent and it was due to a steam line that serves four buildings being down for an extended time throughout the summer.”

The other year was 2010, when FOD had an overall reliability of 99.93 percent instead of 99.96 percent.
The high reliability rate has some students unconcerned about the outages.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” Parker Bayer, a first-year in business, said. “They handled Park-Stradley really well. We were only out for two, three days, and I heard that there was a lot of water in the basement.”
The break occurred in a 10-inch water main in a utility tunnel underneath College Road, near Drinko and Steeb halls. Water from the break flooded the sub-basement of Park-Stradley Hall, triggering an alarm at about 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 16.
More than 2,000 students were evacuated from Park-Stradley and Baker East and West halls. Students spent the night wherever they could, with about 150 students spending the night in the RPAC.
Baker East and West were re-opened early the next morning, but Park-Stradley remained partially closed until about 5 p.m. on Sept. 19.
Park-Stradley opened Fall Semester after being closed for a year as part of a $171 million South Campus renovation project. The building was occupied for about a month before the water main break, which has cost the university roughly $3 million so far including clean-up costs, debris removal, repair of the water line and other equipment repairs.
Terra Rhoades, a first-year in pre-nursing and Park-Stradley resident, has mixed feelings about outages.
“I think that when they happen, they do all they can, but since there’s a lot of them, maybe (the administration isn’t doing all it can),” Rhoades said.
Komlanc said there will be more scheduled outages this summer.
“One area currently being addressed is unreliable electrical switches that have been the cause of numerous campus power outages in the past,” she said. “Through our data tracking, Utilities was able to determine the need for a significant electrical switch replacement project, which has been under way since 2009. Ninety-one switches have already been replaced and work to complete the remaining 36 will begin this summer.”
Generators will be installed to help prevent electrical outages during the switch replacement.

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