Professor Chris Sinclair walked into his Deady Hall office Wednesday and was blasted by a wave of 90-degree heat. Then he found that his glass whiteboard was shattered, apparently broken because of the rapid heating of his office, he said.
Deady’s 70-year-old steam heating system causes rooms to reach unbearable temperatures, usually during the fall and spring when the system can’t adjust to Oregon’s fluctuating weather. Students and faculty have been complaining for years, Sinclair said.
Faculty, students and administration agree the heat is an issue, and the UO is approaching the state legislature for funds to renovate Deady. But Deady’s funding will compete with four other “challenging buildings” on campus that UO also looks to be renovated.
Although Sinclair can’t prove the heat broke the glass, he said the heat in Deady is a “perennial problem.”
Sherilyn Schwartz, building manager of Deady Hall, agrees that the heat is a problem, especially in October when temperatures are much lower at night than during the day.
“The transition periods are the worst. It can be way too warm in the winter,” she said
She said the heating system needs to be upgraded. Schwartz mentioned two options for solving the heat problem: Installing an external heating system, which would cost over $1 million, or refurbish the building. She didn’t know how much that would cost.
“I would like to see it refurbished,” she said.
Deady Hall is heated by steam with one pipe that either turns it on or off. The system was last upgraded in the 1940s or ’50s, Schwartz said. The heat turns on in the fall when temperatures fall below 50 degrees at night for at least five consecutive days and doesn’t climb above 70 degrees during the day.
Sinclair’s office floor was covered in shattered glass. The room smelled like hot chemicals. “It’s kind of a disaster area,” he said. Sweat dripped down his forehead while he spoke. Shards lay five feet away from the spot on the wall where the whiteboard once hung.
Glass can break from thermal shock if it’s heated up or cooled down too quickly, but that also depends on minor flaws in the glass. Sinclair said the glass that broke was around $100. He also has another glass whiteboard in his office that didn’t shatter.
“This week has just been hell in here,” he said. “My concern is having an office where I can actually do work.”
Students sometimes jam chairs in the windows of Deady to let in cold air because the counterweights in the windows are broken. But Sinclair said faculty has to close all the windows at night “because bats are a problem.” And that causes the heat to get worse.
Miranda Braman, a freshman majoring in math, said some rooms in Deady hit 90 degrees, and sometimes her classes end early because of it.
“It just makes you more tired and you don’t want to be in the room,” she said.
Another student, Andrew Lebovitz, earning his Ph.D in mathematics, is gathering support to get Deady Hall’s heating issue recognized and to “put pressure on the university to have the problem addressed,” he said. He’s been interviewing students and taking temperature readings, beginning last week, and he said some of the readings have been 87 degrees.
“I’ve never experienced working conditions like I have in Deady Hall,” Lebovitz said.
Deady also doesn’t have an air-conditioning system.
Deady Hall is the University of Oregon’s oldest building. It was built in 1876. It currently houses the math department. In 1972 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1977 it was designated the rare title of a National Historic Landmark.
Looking to renovate through state funding
Mike Harwood, associate vice president for Campus Planning and Facilities Management, is helping put together a request for the state legislature to fund renovations to problem buildings at UO. He’s identified Deady and four other buildings that need fixing.
During a 2015 attempt to get the state to fund the buildings, Deady was third on the list. But none of the projects on that list were funded, he said.
“Part of the challenge was that the Knight Campus came along and we were looking for matching funds for that initiative. And we were hoping that we weren’t going to compete in our other priorities,” he said. “Unfortunately it seems like the path the legislature took was to not give us a second project.”
The other buildings on the list are Villard Hall, Huestis Hall, Klamath Hall and Onyx Bridge.
Harwood said UO recently hired five architectural firms to do a 60-day, top-to-bottom evaluation of the things that need to be corrected in those five buildings. They are due Nov. 3.
“Once we have those then we’re going to start to prioritize,” he said. “It could be that Deady is No. 1 and it could be that Deady is No. 5.”
After the reports come in, Harwood will collaborate with UO administrators and the Higher Education Coordinating Committee to develop a collective list to bring to the legislature in spring of 2019.
Harwood thinks the legislature will soon be more interested in funding renovations for all of the Oregon universities’ old buildings, instead of funding new construction.
“I think folks are finally understanding that we got a lot of problems across the state, across institutions with buildings that have not had enough resources from the legislature to keep on top of all the system requirements that degrade over time,” he said.
Harwood said Deady’s best-case scenario is getting approved for funding in 2019 and the workers completing the project by 2021 or 2022.
“I think today’s freshmen might graduate before seeing the building improvements that we would make to Deady Hall,” he said.