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Why are some classrooms at OSU hot or cold?

Kaitlyn Lyle / Lantern reporter

Making her way to teach her undergraduate Spanish class on campus, Whitney Chappell doesn’t know what to expect from the condition of her classroom.

No, the classroom isn’t in need of repair, nor is it missing crucial aspects needed to teach her class.

Chappell, a graduate teaching associate, said the temperature in the room has become an issue.

In her class, Chappell said the hot temperatures have become a running joke with the students.

“We’re always joking about how it’s so cold outside but it’s too hot in here,” Chappell said.

During Fall Quarter at Ohio State, the heating kicks on when the outside temperature drops below 55 degrees and shuts off when it’s above 60 degrees, Kelly Bloomfield, director of building automation, said in an email.

Officially there are no temperature requirements for classrooms. However, OSU sets target classroom temperatures for each season.

In winter, the goal is 68 degrees to 70 degrees, a little cooler to conserve energy. In summer, the temperatures can rise to 76 degrees, said Ross Parkman, senior director of utilities for Facilities Operations and Development.

“The shoulder seasons are the toughest for us — fall and spring — where you can go from freezing in the morning to 60 degrees in the afternoon,” Parkman said.

Shoulder seasons refer to the time between the extremes of each season.

The average classroom temperature is 70.35 degrees, about the target 70-degree mark for fall.

“This building isn’t so bad, because we have the maintenance (personnel) here,” said Kibrome Teklemichael, who works in the Science and Engineering Library, which is set at a target 70 degrees.

But Teklemichael, who graduated in summer with a degree in chemical engineering, said that during his undergraduate years at OSU, there were times when classroom temperatures were uncomfortable.

As a student, he spent most of his time in laboratory buildings, which “were really burning” hot at times, he said.

Temperature control is based on a thermostat which was installed during a building’s construction, Bloomfield said in an email.

The utilities department is responsible for getting steam and cold water to campus buildings via the underground tunnel system. Building automation is then responsible for controlling the heating temperatures in buildings.

Parkman said some older buildings on campus, such as Campbell Hall, use a perimeter heating system. Ducts placed around the perimeter of the building carry heat to the interior classrooms, adjusting the heat based on the outside temperature.

These systems typically aren’t turned on until the weather turns colder, as the fluctuating temperatures outside can make regulating the heat difficult, Parkman said.

“Particularly in the fall, when you’re going from pretty wide extremes, it will sometimes tend to overheat a little bit,” Parkman said.

In these systems, adjusting the temperature precisely is difficult once the heating has been turned on.

“Once you get them circulating the hot water and you get a really warm day, it tends to get a bit warm,” Parkman said.

FOD is in the process of examining and planning to replace older heating systems in buildings, Parkman said. This program is funded by multiple accounts, including energy conservation money.

Bloomfield said in an email that the heating and cooling systems in the Fisher College of Business were recommissioned earlier this year. The Math Tower and Jennings Hall are next on the list.

Replacing older heating and cooling systems with more energy-efficient ones will save the university an estimated $66,000 annually, Bloomfield said in an email.

The building-automation department also allows teachers and students to report uncomfortable temperatures.

The department tracks these calls and investigates the complaint, Parkman said. If it is simply an older system that is harder to adjust with fluctuating temperatures outdoors, it is put on a list to be considered for updating.

Systems may be updated to control air flow in each individual room, making temperatures easier to adjust.

Parkman said one focus of the project has been automating temperature controls for large auditoriums.

“In order to heat them up, it takes a lot of energy,” Parkman said. “If there’s no classes scheduled or nobody’s going to be in that auditorium, we can set the temperature down or up.”

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