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Bldg. 5 enters final month of repairs

Construction closes down the second floor of Bldg. 5.
Photo by Carlos Pimentel

Construction has taken over the second floor Bldg. 5 to repair the broken heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, causing class disruptions and blocked hallways.

Since Sep. 2019, the HVAC units in Bldg. 5 haven’t been working. At the beginning of winter term 2020, the classrooms in the hallway were closed off, and classes had been moved to alternate locations. The corridor is now empty, except for the workers, ladders and sounds of construction.

Many rumors sprouted among staff and students as the months went by, due to limited information. Students speculated that perhaps a pipe burst and they were fixing it, or maybe it was a gas leak that contaminated the air. Some even believed there had been a fire.

“It was none of those things,” Rory Alvarez, director of the college’s Capital Projects and Facilities department, said. “We have three total HVAC units on that roof that are over 40 years old, and we had two of them that completely failed.”

HVAC systems control the climate temperature inside buildings.

“The only thing we’re doing in there is putting [in] new HVAC, with the new ducting, with the new controls, so the students are comfortable,” Alvarez said. The failures made learning and teaching difficult, with “no cooling for the summer, [and] no heat for the winter.”

Skybridge corridors blocked off. Photo by Carlos Pimentel

Due to the two failed units, the upstairs hallway in Bldg. 5 has been closed off. Because of the closure, students and staff have had to take alternate routes to get to their classes and offices, as Bldg. 5 is a hub that connects Bldgs. 4, 8 and 6 to the skybridge loop.

The HVAC failures popped up without warning and became an emergency, so little information was communicated to the public about it. Alvarez worked with the instructors in Bldg. 5 to reschedule and situate classes accordingly.

“Kerry Burtis, the Music program instructor, has been fully aware of this because he lives in that building. He’s got his classes in there all the time,” Alvarez said.

During this unexpected event, Burtis’ classrooms were directly affected. The Music program is located in the upper hallway where the majority of the construction is being done and had to be moved immediately.

“We’ve been working with him pretty hand-in-hand throughout the process,” said Alvarez.

“We’ve just had to be flexible to make the moves and to accommodate the HVAC renovation,” said Burtis.

Despite the inconvenience, Burtis said Chemeketa has been working with him and that they have everything under control. “They’ve been awesome.”

“Just scheduling, finding rooms [to use], and, when we need to relocate, then it’s my job to find alternate rooms and adjust schedules to accommodate the construction folks,” Burtis said.

Alvarez plans for the new HVAC systems in Bldg. 5 to be installed and renovations completed by March 30, 2020. “There is gonna be some construction after that,” Alvarez said, “but we’re hoping [to be done]. We need the classrooms. That’s the whole hope.”

He said his priority is ensuring students are properly informed about the process, and as comfortable as possible during the repairs.

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