Campus battles air conditioning systems

Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian

Most students and professors can tell a story about a shabby classroom where the heating doesn’t work in winter and the air conditioning goes kaput in the summer.

The school, many agree, is in dire need of an overhaul. The campus master plan envisions the renovation of several buildings in the next five years. But university officials now say that it is going take a lot longer than that.

Until the buildings are replaced, people such as teachers’ assistant Meredith Bulinski will continue to deal with the inadequate heating and cooling systems in older buildings.

Bulinski said she had more than her share of problems with portable cooling units that are installed to compensate for the poor air conditioning systems.

“If [the fans are] on and they are constantly blowing, then it is really hard to talk,” Bulinski said. “I have to shout the entire time.”

Family food and science department Chair Dennis Ferris, Ph.D., said he has dealt with inadequate cooling and heating systems during his 13 years on campus.

“They have trouble regulating the hot and the cold at different times of the year,” Ferris said. “There have been times in the cold of the winter that the air conditioning is still on. There are many times in the heat of the summer that the heater would come on.”

Fresno State facilities Chief Engineer Ron Leach said the heating and cooling mistiming is a result of a sensitive pneumatic system that reads the pressure of the room. Leach said a number of things could knock off the pressure gauge, such as dust or an air leak.

Associate Vice President of Facilities Bob Boyd said most of the newer, better-regulated buildings on campus are controlled by a digital control that allows someone to control the temperature from a remote area.

Boyd said the pneumatic controls are the remains of a heating and cooling system that dates back to the 1960s.

“Our controls are our biggest problems,” Boyd said. “The ones we have now, and the controls that go along with those are very outdated. The fact that we’ve kept them operational since 1963 is incredible.”

As the chief engineer, Leach ensures that the facilities stay in working order. Leach said keeping overall temperature of the rooms is also affected by a number of components that cannot be fixed with the small facilities budgets.

Building temperature can be affected by a number of things, such as the envelope of the building, the architecture and the heating and cooling components themselves.

Leach said the heating and cooling components have been upgraded in the last 10 years, but fixing one aspect of the problem doesn’t fix the entire problem.

“We have made some changes throughout the years to bring up its efficiencies, but the base unit is pretty standard,” Leach said. “In the greater scheme of things, it all needs to be replaced.”

Boyd said that it could take upwards to seven years before a project can be realistically considered for funding. He said the state is in a deficit, so funding could be another challenge.

“I’ve been here 29 plus years and I am yet to see too much money that falls from the skies to fix things,” Boyd said.

Despite the potentially long time frame before any of the buildings can be renovated, Boyd is doing what he can to ensure the wait is as comfortable as possible.

Until the buildings can be demolished and built again, Boyd said he and his department will continue their efforts to maintain the current system.

“There are specific issues that can always be addressed if in fact we know there is a huge deficiency,” Boyd said. “We’ll see what we can do to make that stay and wait as good as we can.”

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