By Richard Zagrzecki
Preparing for the colder temperatures that come with the winter months can be a challenge for a large college campus like the University of Houston.
But the Facilities Management staff here at UH has a thorough plan in place and many years of experience under its belt as it gets ready for the chilly weather that inevitably lies ahead. That means when bitter cold temperatures descend on the area, the UH community can rest assured that plenty is being done to keep the campus running smoothly.
Extreme winter weather advisories that include freezing temperatures and precipitation don’t happen often in Houston, but they do occur from time to time. When they do, numerous actions are taken, including:
The University has 20 tons of sand and 1,500 pounds of deicer stored on campus for when it is needed to help keep sidewalks and pathways cleared of slippery ice. In early 2014, it came in handy when freezing weather and icy conditions descended on the Houston region.
“When we had the bad weather last winter, we used about 400 pounds of deicer, so we have plenty available to us if the need arises this winter,” said Senior Director of Facilities Management Sameer Kapileshwari.
More often, temperatures will drop to around 45 degrees or below, well before it hits freezing. When that occurs, crews will arrive around 6:30 a.m. on weekdays to check the indoor temperatures of campus buildings and correct any problems prior to 8 a.m., when the majority of staff members arrive for work. As the outdoor temperature drops, it can affect the indoor temperatures, especially in the older buildings on campus.
“We want students, faculty and staff to feel comfortable in their work and learning environments,” said Assistant Director of Facilities Management Michael Burriello. “By walking through each building before they arrive, our crews are able to make the needed adjustments.”
Employees who discover their building or classroom is too cold, or who have another facilities repair or maintenance issue that needs to be addressed, should file a report to the Facilities Service Center, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 713-743-4948.
Employees also are encouraged to notify their building coordinators about facilities repair issues in their building. Often seemingly isolated issues are signals of other problems, and building coordinators can work with facilities personnel to help assess this and be a point of contact for them regarding facilities issues in the building. A list of campus building coordinators who serve in this important role is available here.
When extreme weather conditions and freeze warnings are announced, Facilities Management already has staff on hand during the week. If that weather strikes on a Sunday, the department will send an HVAC technician and a building management systems technician out to walk through the residential and research buildings to make sure the systems are functioning properly and the indoor climate is at a comfortable level.
“Even though we are not located in a cold region, we are very prepared at UH in case we do experience extreme winter temperatures and precipitation,” said Assistant Director of Facilities Avinash Rahurkar. “It has happened before and it will happen again.”