Pipes burst in Burnell, leading to extensive water damage

By Emma Johansen-Hewitt

Comment Contributor


If you’re getting sick of winter, you are not alone. We have seen record-shattering snow totals in an extremely short amount of time. The windchill has made walking across campus unbearable at times. The weather has been nothing if not disruptive: disrupting the academic calendar with snowdays, disrupting the parking situation, and even disrupting classes in Burnell.

Recently, the winter weather caused extensive damage in Burnell, resulting in the main foyer and four classrooms to be unusable for a week.

Heating coils in the heating unit located in the ceiling froze, which caused pipes to burst. The pipes bursting resulted in fairly extensive water damage. Only one overhead projector was ruined, but the furniture needed to be cleaned, carpets and ceiling tiles replaced and the heating unit fixed.

According to Miguel Gomes, Vice President of Administration and Finance, the damage could have taken over two weeks to clean up, but the university worked hard to get all affected classrooms back online as soon as possible.

Despite the rapid repairs, however, the damage was still disruptive to many students and faculty. Four classrooms were unusable during repairs, temporarily relocating 48 classes. Students in those classes received an email informing them of the damage and the room change.

Students who don’t have classes in one of the four affected rooms, however, were surprised on Wednesday morning to find the foyer in Burnell, often used for study groups, to be blocked off. Samantha White, a psychology major, hosts a P.A.L. (Peer Assisted Learning) session in the Burnell foyer. “I had no idea the foyer would be unusable,” said White. “Fortunately no one was attending that session, but if they had, we would have had nowhere to go.”

Although disruptive, the damage could have been much worse. Of all the technology in the classrooms, only one overhead projector was lost. None of the furniture needed anything more than a cleaning.

Could the damage have been prevented? Probably not, says Karen Jason, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Management. The building is almost 40 years old, and “Inevitably,” said Jason, “things break.”

The Facilities and Management staff do their best to try to foresee problems like this, but it isn’t always so easy to detect. “We had to use a sawzall to get to the broken heating coils,” Jason explained. “It isn’t like a filter you can just go and check.”

Hopefully, we won’t see another case like this, at least this winter. But the possibility is there. All buildings, from Tillinghast to Conant, are at risk in some way during extreme cold.

While some things just inevitably break, as a school community there are things we can do to help prevent certain weather-related damage. Bursting pipes have been a major issue this winter not only in Burnell, but all across campus.

It is extremely important that students and faculty insure all windows and doors remain shut to prevent other pipes from bursting. Additionally, if you see any issues across campus, from a leaky faucet to a door that won’t shut fully, Jason asks that you report them to Facilities and Management. Seemingly small issues can lead to larger problems if not caught early on.

Facilities and Management can be reached at 508-531-2750.

Emma Johansen-Hewitt is a Comment Contributor.

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