Cold Zones Backfired in Xmas Flood


It was a cold Saturday night after Christmas. The temperature was nosediving, the thermometer was inching its way down to zero. At that point the administration realized that the drop in the mercury could cause the pipes to burst.

But it was already too late. The Faculty had created cold zones throughout the House system by turning off hundreds of heating valves in individual entries, and there was no way to get all the heating valves open in time.

"Billy Emper [Harvard's football captain] couldn't get all those valves turned on in time," Stephen S.J. Hall, vice president for administration, said yesterday while reflecting on the Christmas vacation floods. "So we just got burnt."

Two weeks and hundreds of dollars of rug cleaner later, the University is just beginning to tell how extensive the damages were.

Francis A. Lawton, assistant for facilities for the Faculty, said yesterday the administration has found water damage in 60 rooms in Eliot, Adams and Quincy Houses, and minor damage in Apley Court, 54 Dunster St., 60 Boylston St., the Chemistry and Biology Labs, Pound Hall, and the Baker Library.

Despite rumors floating around the dining halls that damages must be as much as $500,000, administrators in Buildings and Grounds are sticking by the figure of $50,000 for clean-up costs, including labor and new piping.

But that figure doesn't include personal property damages to students whom the University will reimburse through an insurance fund.

The personal damage isn't available yet, because a list of damages hasn't been compiled. But, using a figure of about $200 a room, Hall said he figures that the University may have to pay about $12,000.

"But there is an old saying that when you drop something off a building it always hits a Cadillac," Hall said. "When water spills here it doesn't hit a $20 Sony radio, it hits a $400 stereo.

Despite these damages, Hall said the University overall netted at least $150,000 in fuel costs by lowering temperatures during the vacation, even though the heat levels were raised in some Houses after the flooding.

Fuel savings for the Faculty alone, estimated to be about $75,000, are less than the $150,000 that Rosovsky said he hoped for when he ordered the shutdown in October.

As for the actual mechanics of the freeze-up, Hall said he blames Harvard's antiquated facilities, and not any negligence on the part of personnel.

Because the walls let air filter through and the pipes had no insulation, even if the room temperature remained at 40 degrees the pipes could be operating in a ten-degree air pocket, Hall said.

"We learned that pipes aren't insulated when you would bet a week's pay that they would be insulated," Hall said. "So you say, O.K., you guys should be smarter. Well, you couldn't be. Moses could not have done a better job than we did this year."

Lawton said, "The buildings have never been operated at those levels, and we were unsure of the valves. We all learned something from this experiment."

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