By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Pittsburg State University officials have begun an evaluation of Heckert-Wells Hall, which houses the biology and chemistry departments as well as Nature Reach, to explore options for overhauling the building’s heating, cooling and ventilation system.
The project, which could carry a price tag of as much as $1 million, is not based on health or safety concerns related to air quality, they say, but on energy efficiency.
“Yes, there have been long-standing complaints — people have always talked about the odors — but this is not out of a safety concern or air quality,” said Paul Stewart, director of facilities planning. “This is about huge, huge utility consumption and energy costs.”
Both the odor and the utility consumption are a result of science labs accounting for the main use of the three-story building; there are no academic classrooms.
“With a lab situation, you’re constantly exhausting the air out, and you have to make that air up with mechanical means,” Stewart said. “It has not ever been a safety concern pertaining to air quality, although some have commented on the smells. But in a building with animals, plants, chemicals, formaldehyde, you are going to have the smells.”
A similar challenge exists at the university’s Tyler Research Center, he said.
Heckert-Wells was built in 1984, and it uses the original heating, air and exhaust systems. An energy performance audit of the building about a year ago indicated that the mechanical system needed repair and that the air conditioning needed to be replaced. It also indicated that cost savings might be achieved by reducing the number of exhaust hoods.
This fall, an engineering consultant began an evaluation to determine options. It is being paid for with a portion of $600,000 that PSU received last year in rehabilitation and repair project bonds from the Kansas Educational Building Fund set aside for universities.
The remainder of PSU’s rehabilitation and repair funds may be carried over and put with future funding to pay for the project.
The university also is exploring options when it comes to how heat is provided to the building.
“It’s currently on our central plant, which puts steam to that building for heat, but in the swing periods in spring and summer before the heat comes on, all that air is being exhausted out and there is no heat to make it up,” Stewart said. “It cools down in there considerably.
“We are evaluating whether we should put it on its own system so we don’t have that.”
Stewart expects to have the entire scope and cost of the project specified by Dec. 1, when requests for rehabilitation and repair funding are due. The state will announce recipients in the spring of 2013 and will award funds on July 1.
IF HECKERT-WELLS HALL is declared an official campus project, work would take place in the summer of 2014 so the project would have the least impact on students and faculty.