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Amid Heat Wave, Main Computer Lab in Science Center Hits 87 Degrees

By Andrea M. Larocca, Contributing Writer

Last week, temperatures reached 87 degrees in the main computer lab of the Science Center because the room’s air-handling system does not allow for air-conditioning before May.

Assistant Dean for Research Policy and Administration for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences R. Gallant said that the air system switches from heating to cooling in early- to mid-May, and that the lab cannot be cooled down before then.

“The way the system is designed, until the cooling system officially switches over in May, we’re at the mercy of the weather fluctuations of New England, so it may be hard to lose heat from the lab,” said Gallant.

The heat wave began last Monday afternoon when the temperature climbed to 87 degrees. The Science Center Control Office was immediately informed of the problem, and the computer lab user assistants were instructed to encourage lab patrons to use the two air-conditioned labs on the second floor of the Science Center, according to an e-mail sent by Erin Nettifee, a computer accounts and security liaison for Harvard University FAS Computer Services.

Posters depicting a burning house and a panting, sweating dog apologized for the heat wave and redirected “uncomfortably hot” students to the other computer labs.

The main computer lab houses 95 PCs and five laptop stations, while the two upstairs labs house 20 Apple computers and 15 PCs, respectively. The two upstairs labs are connected to a different air-handling system than the main lab’s.

Gallant said that the high temperatures in the computer lab persisted until the weekend, averaging about 85 degrees every day.

But the week of high temperatures has not affected the computers or any of the lab hardware, said Kevin S. Davis ’98, coordinator of Residential Computing, who is also a Crimson editor.

“The computers should be fine at this point in time. So far there’s no reason to think that this has affected them in any way,” Davis said.

Although the Science Center Control Office was notified early on about the heat, according to Netiffe’s Monday e-mail, there was initially some confusion over the cause of the problem. Gallant said that it was determined only yesterday that the problem was with design of the system, rather than with the construction going on in the Science Center.

Gallant said that he has contacted the engineers involved in the design of the system to discuss year-round cooling capabilities for the lab, but that a redesign is probably prohibitively expensive.

“It’s going to be hot when we get a spike in spring temperatures, but usually this won’t be a problem,” Gallant said.

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