Northern Illinois University

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News Release

Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

September 14, 2009

Steam tunnel repairs cut hot water for some

DeKalb, Ill. — Work to repair steam tunnels on the east side of campus will leave nearly a dozen buildings without hot water for about 10 days starting Sept. 14.

Beginning that day the following buildings will have only cold water service:

  • Campus Life Building
  • Health Services Building
  • Williston Hall
  • Adams Hall
  • Founders Memorial Library
  • Davis Hall
  • Lowden Hall
  • Swen Parson Hall
  • Faraday Hall
  • Faraday West
  • Montgomery Hall
  • Psychology-Computer Science Building
  • Campus Safety

Steam service to those buildings will be shut down as crews work to repair the crumbling roof of the main stream tunnel leading from the East Heating Plant located on the north side of Altgeld Hall. The tunnel is part of a network that runs beneath campus delivering high pressure steam to buildings around campus. The steam is used to heat buildings, heat water and (in the case of the Holmes Student Center) even cook food. It is far more efficient and less expensive than having individual boilers in each building.

The university has been trying to secure money to repair portions of the steam tunnel network for several years, but lack of a capital bill delayed the work. As part of the capital bill recently signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, the university received $5.2 million to address deferred maintenance across campus, and had earmarked some of that money to repair the tunnels.

However, in recent weeks a portion of the 60-year-old tunnel near the East Heating Plant began to deteriorate badly. A 40-foot section of the tunnel was deemed to be in such poor condition that the decision was made to repair it immediately rather than risk damage to the steam lines (and the accompanying loss of heating capacity) during the winter.

During the project the parking area behind the west wing of Atlgeld Hall will be closed and pedestrian access in that area will be limited.

Crews stripped insulation from the tunnel last week and work will begin Monday to excavate the tunnel and remove the roof. The posts and racks that hold the steam pipes will be repaired and a new concrete roof will be installed.
The goal is to have steam service restored by Tuesday, Sept. 22, and the entire project completed – including restoration of the parking lot – by late September said Jeff Daurer, director of capital budgeting and planning for the Division of Finance and Facilities.

“We understand that this is an unpleasant inconvenience and assure you that we would not be taking such measures if it were not necessary,” Daurer said.

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