During the Ohio University Board of Trustees’ August meeting, the board received an update concerning five major capital improvements from Mark Heil, vice president and chief financial officer, and Jon Cozad, associate vice president for design and construction.
The projects include advancing technology as well as some maintenance. All five projects combined are budgeted at nearly $12 million.
The projects include a chilled water plant expansion, roof replacement at 31 S. Court St., an update of HVAC – heating, ventilation and air conditioning – controls in Copeland Hall, fire alarm replacement in Ping Recreation Center and annual steam repairs.
“We're trying to be as proactive as we can be and as our finances allow us to stay ahead of all these maintenance needs,” Cozad said. “Then get things replaced when they need to be replaced.”
Besides the chilled water plant project, the main duration for the projects will take place in the summer of 2024, but the projects may take longer than expected and need finishing in the fall of 2024.
Cozad said the chilled water plant project will be the longest in duration due to the amount of time it will take for the university to receive the equipment needed to complete it.
He added that the Copeland HVAC and control renovation will likely run into the Fall semester of 2024 but is not expected to disrupt or displace any classes during that time.
Considering Ohio’s constant change of weather throughout the seasons, it is crucial to do routine maintenance on the HVAC systems multiple times a year.
“We have to deal with pretty severe heat and humidity during the summertime, and humidity is a very significant challenge for these HVAC systems, and, at the same time, we have to be prepared for snow and winter conditions,” Heil said. “So, literally balancing pretty extreme temperatures on both ends.”
The fire alarm replacement project in Ping Recreation Center is also not expected to disturb as many students or university employees because it’s taking place in the summer of 2024.
Troy Bonte, head of facilities maintenance operations and safety, was also responsible for presenting some of these projects to the board; he spoke about the importance of emergency and fire safety.
“We have a project to upgrade fire alarm equipment in the Ping Center, and just like your cell phones, those fire alarm companies make equipment obsolete, and you can no longer get parts for them,” Bonte said.
Once installed, the fire alarms will need to be tested, but Cozad said OU is working to disrupt as few people as possible.
“There will be a few day periods where we'll test the new fire alarm system (and) you can imagine that's pretty noisy, and we'll work with our Campus Recreation group to schedule that at a time that has the least users in the building so that it doesn't impact anything,” Cozad said.
The 31 S. Court St. roof replacement will also take place in the summer of 2024, but there is a possibility the construction will continue into the Fall 2024 Semester.
However, there will be a few department offices that will be occupied during the time of replacement.
Cozad said there is no reason why people would not be able to occupy the building; however, there may be some inconveniences or intermittent interruptions and some disruptions with traffic flow for the duration of the project.
The annual steam repairs are done through tunnels underneath the university. The central steam plant is used to heat most of the campus buildings and sanitize research equipment being used on campus.
“It's more efficient than having separate standalone systems in each building,” Heil said. “We capitalize on that inherent kind of structure that we operate an entire campus with hundreds of buildings, and we try to optimize that from a cost perspective.”
Heil said it is important that the university provides an environment for students to not only be able to work in but also be successful in their endeavors.
“One of the things that we struggle with – that a lot of institutions struggle with – and the state struggles with is how to maintain our aging facilities,” Heil said “We're highly focused on the success of our students. We want to provide an environment where people can live and be comfortable, where they can learn and be effective in that.”