Deep down in the bowels of the Science Center sub-basement lies a computer that may determine whether Harvard will swelter or freeze this winter.
This computer, property of the Harvard Facilities Office, receives sample temperature readings from the Houses and gathers the lowest readings of several thermostats in each House, according to Tom Tribble, associate director for utilities. He said that this figure determines how much heat is necessary.
How well does this formula work?
In general, officials at the Facilities Office agree that the heating nerve center in the Science Center responds well to drops in temperature. Last weekend, for example, when Indian summer gave way violently to autumn, House superintendents reported that they received no complaints about inadequate heat.
In Dunster House, students were asked en masse in the dining hall how well their radiators had responded to the temperature drop--only a handful of rooming groups voiced dissatisfaction.
But several superintendents said that, once the autumn wet turns into snowstorms, flurries of complaints are likely to chrystallize.
"I don't know how they do it, but it's freezing in my room every year," said Eliot House resident Dale M. Frank '86.
How It's Done
On the surface, heating Harvard would seem to be a clear cut proposition. According to Tribble, the huge condensers that fill the mammoth space underneath the Science Center distribute steam directly to campus buildings.
The steam--which originates in the Blackstone Power Plant--is available as early as September 19th, when the Houses open, and ready to be employed immediately when cooler weather strikes, said Tribble.
He added that an interior space temperature of below 65 degrees--which means an outdoor temperature of somewhere below 55 degrees--will activate the computer to turn on the heat.
Still, some students do feel like they've been left out in the cold. Sometimes a whole entryway, or perhaps the first story rooms, feel less cozy than they should, Tribble acknowledges.
He says that, usually, when Facilities Maintenance investigates a cold room, it finds that "someone has left the windows open or the storm window up."
But, Tribble adds, "if someone's cold, they're cold."
Sweating In The Library
Lamont library--known to most students as a sweathouse even before reading period--has experienced an especially bad heating problem this week.
According to Assistant Librarian John Lanam, Lamont's beach weather has nothing to do with Harvard's main heating system.
Since Monday, Lanam says, temperatures in Lamont's upper levels have reached highs of 78 degrees, due to a malfunction in the library's 40-year-old secondary heating system. Students have been sweltering in greenhouse-style heat as moisture collects on the insides of windows.
Several attempts have been made at repair, Lanam says, and hopefully the system will be functioning properly soon. But, he adds that Lamont has "always been warm" since he has worked there.
The librarians aren't the only ones whe have noticed things heating up in the stacks. According to Suzanne Barr '88, "I can't study in Lamont at all--I either fall asleep from the heat or feel like I'm going to pass out."