Braniff’s new chiller arrives after summer of breakdowns

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Over the summer, many on the University of Dallas campus were affected by faults in the air conditioning, from Braniff Graduate Building to Cardinal Farrell Hall. Recently, changes have been made to improve the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system.

The problems were in large part caused by an outdated HVAC system on campus. In particular, the computer system running the HVAC was faulty and broke down several times.

“The main problem was a failure in the computer motherboard that runs the HVAC,” said Dr. John Plotts, the executive vice president. “Due to computer chip shortages it took several months to obtain a new motherboard.”

This caused outages in Cardinal Farrell Hall, Haggar University Center, Haggerty Science Center and Braniff.

Michael Roberts, junior politics major and a student worker at the Office of the Registrar, described the July 28 outage in the administration building as akin to “the seventh layer of hell.” Roberts said that, though the building only lost climate control for a single day, he had to change his pants to shorts to cope with the temperatures.

“I didn’t really go into Haggar,” Roberts said. “[But] some of my friends who were taking Summer courses noticed that the A/C in Haggar had also gone out and were complaining so I was able to commiserate.”

According to Andrew Kelly, a freshman physics major who studied on campus over the summer through the O’Hara program, Haggerty lost climate control in July.

“The A/C broke and it was just wicked, wicked hot in the science building all the time,” Kelly said.

He said that the class he was taking at the time of the outage was on the second floor of Haggerty science building and the temperatures were almost unbearable at times.

In an earlier statement to The University News in September 2021, Plotts said that Braniff and Haggar had much bigger issues in the past and were ill equipped to fight the scorching heat. He said that they were the two oldest HVAC units in the system and had planned to address the problems they were causing in the 2021-22 academic year.

Last year, there were some reports of uncomfortable temperatures in Braniff, but over the summer, Braniff reached such high temperatures that some wholly avoided it. Dr. Richard Dougherty, professor of politics, said that he was one such person.

“I don’t think I came to my office here more than once this summer; I was lucky enough to be able to work from home,” Dougherty said. “Some other professors weren’t as fortunate.”

Since then, Braniff has gotten a new chiller which was promised over a year ago. However, due to supply-chain problems, it arrived much later than anticipated. It was in San Antonio for a time waiting to be shipped until only recently and its installation was only completed last Friday.

“The new [c]hiller was delivered a little over a week ago. The installation process was completed on Friday, [Sept. 23]” Plotts said.

Air conditioning failures are nothing new to UD. In 2021, Madonna Hall had two air conditioning malfunctions, each lasting about three days. In the latter outage, the university had to reimburse students who chose to temporarily relocate off campus. 

Prior to that, in fall 2019, Theresa Hall likewise had a malfunction with its air conditioning. In both halls, the problems were probably mechanical, Plotts said in his statement to The University News in September 2021.

The administration has said that they are taking preemptive steps against future HVAC malfunctions, though the new airflow and temperature management technology outlined about a year ago is still something that the administration is working on.

“Our HVAC system is old and in need of upgrading in several areas,” Plotts said. “We will continue to upgrade and improve our systems during off hours.”

He expressed the hope that no future HVAC changes will impede climate control around campus. The administration has begun to deliver on its plans to update campus HVAC systems, but the process is still ongoing and will take some time to complete.

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