On the night of January 4 and 5, while the majority of students were home for break, sprinkler heads burst in Memorial Hall, flooding the east-facing stairway with water and causing about $20,000 worth of damage.
According to Jeff Tuttle, associate director of facilities operation and maintenance, the extreme cold caused the sprinklers to freeze and then pop. The first round burst around midnight on January 4, and a second group burst in the early hours of January 5.
Tuttle said that the cold winter weather is usually accompanied by a host of issues. However, while Facilities Management always expects a number of small problems, Tuttle said that the flooding in Memorial Hall was certainly abnormal.
“We sustained substantial water damage, but we were able to get it extracted fairly quickly and get the area dried out,” said Tuttle. The cleanup took about two weeks, but left no permanent damage.
“That stairway is entirely glass. There is a heater in it but in those temperatures it’s tough for that to keep up,” said Tuttle. “We’re looking into options that we can do to prevent that in the future, but we haven’t had a winter this cold in many years. But we’re still exploring some things because obviously we don’t want to have another $20,000 sprinkler pop.”
There was also a minor sprinkler freeze in Sidney J. Watson Arena; however, that damage was minimal.
Tuttle said that the cold snap also caused ice damming, roof leaks, and water encroachment into some basements.
“That weekend was busy,” he said. “We had guys that practically lived here. Our maintenance techs, electricians, carpenters—we had a lot of people.”
According to Tuttle, Facilites Management employs about 50 of what he calls “trade shop” Facilities Management employees—plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.—and they rotate a 24-hour pager between themselves.
“The guys who had the pager that weekend—things got pretty crappy for them,” he said.
Tuttle said that the temperatures in buildings are set back a few degrees over break, but it’s hard to say if that was the source of the problems. He also mentioned that some older buildings can be difficult to heat.
“We have over two million square feet and 130 plus buildings, you can only imagine the systems that we have spread out through campus,” he said. “We haven’t had a winter this crazy in a while. We’re ready for it to be over.”
Other Brunswick businesses were also affected by the cold weather. According to the Forecaster, the Captain Daniel Stone Inn was forced to close its doors after water damaged the kitchen and several guest rooms, and the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum sustained water damage to a wall, ceilings and antique furniture.