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College Proposes Campus-Wide Ban on Halogen Lamps

By Timothy L. Warren, Contributing Writer

The College will likely expand its ban on halogen lamps in first-year dorms to all upper-class Houses once it finishes distributing fluorescent lamps to all undergraduate rooms, officials said yesterday.

The new policy, which could take effect as early as next semester, was confirmed yesterday by Associate Dean of the College for Human Resources and the House System Thomas A. Dingman '67.

Dingman said concerns about fire hazards associated with halogen lamps prompted the College to propose broadening its ban on the lamps--a proposal which Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 said he supports.

"Halogen lamps are a fire hazard, and as the sad events at Seton Hall [University] demonstrate, dormitory fires are a real possibility so we want to do what we can to prevent them," Lewis wrote in an e-mail message yesterday.

The proposal rests on the delivery of about 6,500 new fluorescent floor lamps, which the College is in the process of delivering to student rooms in the Houses.

The lamps will be part of the standard package of furniture allocated to each undergraduate.

"They'll be just like pillows," said Robert L. Mortimer, associate director of building services for FAS. "When you arrive to your room, you'll see a bed, a bookcase, a dresser, and a lamp."

The lamps being purchased are similar in size and shape to standard halogen floor lamps, but rather than using a single 300-watt halogen bulb, the new lamps will use three 26-watt fluorescent bulbs.

The College will end up spending about $48 for each lamp after it receives a rebate from its power provider for switching to more energy efficient lamps.

But Director of FAS Physical Resources Michael N. Lichten said he is unsure when the College will have distributed all the lamps, but he hopes to include the lamps in the rooms for the beginning of the next school year.

He said the College is waiting on additional shipments of the lamps and is looking for additional people to help assemble the lamps once they arrive.

The impetus for installing the new lamps came in part from a senior project completed by Linsey Murr '96 for Engineering Sciences 100, "Engineering Design Projects," then taught by Lawrence Professor of Engineering Frederick H. Abernathy.

Murr authored a report entitled "An Energy Efficient Lamp and Energy Savings at Harvard," and designed a lamp that would help Harvard save money on energy costs.

Her report claimed that each new lamp, which uses 222 less watts of power than a halogen lamp, would save $20 in electrical savings a year.

According to Lichten, when Harvard officials saw the report, they worked to develop Murr's prototype into a feasible product.

"She tried to patent it, but she couldn't, so we agreed to offer an honararium of one dollar to Murr for each lamp Harvard uses," Lichten said.

The College will share this cost with the manufacturer of the lamps.

But administrators says they were influenced more by fire safety concerns than cost savings, since fluorescent lamps pose a much lower fire risk than the halogen lamps.

Both Dingman and Lichten said administrators had read reports of fires caused by halogen lamps at other schools and were particularly influenced by a fire caused by a halogen bulb several years ago in Canaday Hall.

Some first year students who already have the non-halogen lamps say they have been satisfied with their performance.

"I love them," said Chanley Howell '03, a Grays resident. "They're great. They have different intensities, for different moods, and just as much light as halogens."

But Leverett House resident Dodzie K. Sogah '01, who has not seen the new lamps yet, said he doubted the fluorescent lamps could ever approach the brightness and warmth of halogen lamp.

"I think it's a horrible idea," he said. "Fluorescent light is awful, and lamps tend not to be nearly as bright as halogens."

Harvard officials have no fixed plans to receive input from students who have already received lamps.

"We'll get it whether we seek it or not, I'm sure," Mortimer said.

But for those students considering ignoring the new policy, Dingman said the College would take appropriate measures to enforce it.

"It would be too bad to go through all this, and find that the students weren't using[the new lamps]."

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