Local, News, On campus

HVAC leak causes damage in the RUC over the snow break

McKenzie Hughes

Feb. 6, 2024

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system malfunction in the first floor of the RUC caused a surge of water to flow from the ceiling on Jan. 17.

   “We were over at the Chick-Fil-A and we were doing inventory then we heard something running, and when we looked it was really bad,” Dawn Vaden, assistant retail director said. Vaden continues, “It was like a big waterfall coming down and then all of the tiles started dropping out of the ceiling.”

   “The addition to the RUC is separate from the rest of the building as far as the HVAC system goes,” Daniel Warren, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Business Services said. “Instead of having the centralized air handling units that are located in the penthouse of the main building it has what are called rooftop units sitting on the roof of the second floor.”

   “They are exposed to the elements more than our typical air handling units will be subjected to. Each mechanical piece of equipment has built in safety equipment associated with it,” Warren continues. “For these rooftop units, they have what is called freezestat and it basically measures each inch of the coil that heats the air coming from the outside to keep everything warm inside the unit. But the freezestat didn’t trip.”

   Warren explained further by stating, “I think when that happened, more outside air that was below freezing was introduced to the unit and that overcame the heating capacity of the preheat coil, and so it actually froze the coil, not the main… when it freezes it doesn’t leak. It’s not until it starts to thaw a little bit that the leaks present themselves.”

   “The coil leaked up on the rooftop and it actually didn’t flow down the pipe, it went into the ductwork. The ductwork is a straight drop down from where the damage occurred,” Warren explained.

   At the time of the water intrusion, campus classes and offices were closed, which allowed for optimal cleanup and restoration of on-campus facilities, such as Starbucks, Tu Taco, Chick-Fil-A, and The Market. Fortunately, The Caf was able to provide food services as the damage only affected the downstairs area of the RUC.

   “We have to make sure people in the campus community do their part to keep our buildings safe and our units safe by making sure they are being responsible stewards by, for example, closing the windows,” Warren said.

   Although this is not a completely avoidable issue, steps can be taken such as closing windows, keeping campus in a clean and orderly manner, and respecting outside conditions to assist in minimizing future damage to mechanical work.