May 16 through May 19, the University of Idaho conducted their yearly spring plant shutdown for bi-annual operational maintenance that temporarily suspended access to hot water at university facilities.
“We replaced distribution lines that were in disrepair, that needed to be replaced,” said Gene Gussenhoven, director of Utilities and Engineering Services.
The University of Idaho has approximately 143 buildings, including barns, classrooms, student centers and offices. Of the 143 buildings, 68 of them are operated by the steam plant, said Steam Plant Manager Scott Smith. These 68 buildings lost access to hot water for this three-day period.
“All of the campus that uses steam was affected,” Smith said.
Smith has worked for the UI steam plant and facilities for 15 years. He is a UI graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. Smith said it has been seven years since the university has shut down the steam plant entirely for service and repairs. They chose to execute these operations in the summer after spring session ended to minimize student impact and inconvenience.
Brian Mahoney, UI associate director of Facilities and Operations for Campus Recreation, manages the facilities at the campus recreation center. His operations were affected by the shut down of the steam plant.
“The steam plant gives us hot water and heat,” Mahoney said.
Between May 16 and 19 the building was running cooler, Mahoney said. Because the steam plant heats their building, they could not regulate the building temperature in the usual manner.
“Various rooms experienced temperature fluctuations, between the mid to high 60s,” Mahoney said. “We usually operate at 71 degrees (Fahrenheitw).”
To adjust to these temporary restrictions, Mahoney, management and staff informed patrons there was no access to hot water.
“Patrons had to take cold showers,” Mahoney said.
In addition to heating the building and general facilities, the SRC relies on the steam plant to do their laundry.
“We had to take laundry to the Kibbie Dome to be done at least two to three times,” Mahoney said. “They hadn”t done a shut down for more than a day in several years. We knew in an advance, we were made aware a couple weeks before hand.”
The SRC and other buildings were prepared for the shut down and planned accordingly.
UI does steam plant maintenance where they shut down all or part of the steam plant twice a year in the spring and in the fall. They will always let the faculty and students know if and how they will be affected, Smith said.
Kevin Douglas Neighbors
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