How will the University ensure our offices aren’t freezing after a break?

QUESTION:

Dear Ask-Executive,

When I arrived back at work this morning after the vacation, I discovered that my office was at a rather wintry nine degrees centigrade. This isn’t the first year I’ve noticed that office temperatures don’t seem to meet health and safety minimum standards* after the Christmas break, so I’m wondering what plans the University will be putting in place to deal with this recurring issue.

*I know that the sixteen degree rule of thumb is no longer binding, but nine degrees scarcely seems “reasonable” either.

Happy new year.

ANSWER:

There have been a couple of buildings that have felt the cold early this week. The University has a Staffordshire University Heating Guidance – Final that is freely available. This states that a temperature range of 17 through 23°C will be maintained. Generally we try to maintain internal temperatures at 21°C, although a margin of error is to be expected with a range of building ages and structures and varying ages of heating plant.

A heating schedule was created that allowed the service to be set to “anti-frost” only, over the Christmas break. However, this schedule ended by the 4th Jan (or 3rd, where buildings are known to take longer to regain a comfortable temperature).

Where problems are still being reported, we are investigating an appropriate “warm up” time, and will endeavour to ensure that university buildings have gained sufficient heat for comfort after periods of disuse, in readiness for reoccupation.

However, it would appear that in the case of the Brindley and Flaxman buildings, technical faults beyond the Building Management System control have occurred, which have interrupted the normal circulation of heat. These faults are being investigated at present.

The 16°C minimum temperature is often cited but has never been a statutory minimum. It is, however commonly used as a minimum guidance temperature for sedentary work and is regarded as the “reasonable” lower limit for internal temperatures.

Why isn’t the heating left on?

QUESTION:

Can someone explain why the heating appears to go off at approx. 2.30 – 3pm every afternoon please? Many in our office (Brindley) work past 5 – 6pm and it is decidedly chilly by this time.

ANSWER:

As the weather has been very mild for November, we have been attempting to conserve energy and finances by tailoring the boiler outputs to suit actual weather conditions. Our larger buildings such as Henrion; Flaxman; Mellor and Brindley are all prone to overheat if the heating is on and the weather remains mild. Therefore, operating hours of the heating has been pegged back to mid afternoon to prevent too much overheat. However, last week, as the weather appears to be cooling off, we began to extend the operating hours to compensate for the cooler weather. Hopefully, we can strike a balance between those who are too cold and those that are actually too hot (then open their windows to cool down and let the heat from the radiators out).

As ever, we try to provide as comfortable a working and studying environment as possible, whilst keeping the heating regime as economical as possible.

Why is the heating on already?

QUESTION:

It is the end of September, and still warm. Why is the heating on? It came on last week, and some classrooms are far too hot. Surely the heating should only go on (like mine does at home) once it is generally cold?

ANSWER:

The heating has been put on to offset the cool mornings and switches off after a couple of hours. Some of our buildings, however, experience solar gains in the afternoon and this, combined with the residual heat in the pipework may have led to warmer than desired temperatures. We have altered heating setpoints and timeschedules to better control room temperatures during this temperate period leading up to the proper heating season.

What is being done to improve the poor heating and lack of hot water in the Octagon?

QUESTION:
What is being done to improve the poor heating and lack of hot water in the Octagon?

 

ANSWER:
Planned work to fix the problem with the poor heating and lack of hot water in the Octagon has proven to be far greater than first anticipated due to the fragile condition and old age of the building’s services, with many new associated faults identified as part of the initial investigation.

The many faults have now been corrected and since March 2012, the Estates Department have carried out the following improvement works at a cost of £300,000.

•Replacement of two new boilers;
•Progressive replacement of the obsolete Building Management System;
•Replacement of the main intake and return fans to the Octagon’s main air handling plant;
•Replacement of existing valves throughout the Octagon which were not fully functioning;
•Initial commissioning of the system;

The system is now in full operation with far higher heating and hot water temperatures available from the new boilers as of Monday 21st January 2013.

Engineers will however be on site for the next 2-3 weeks to balance the system and raise temperatures in any localised cold spots. This work will go on in the background. Disruption will be minimal and any affected users will be notified in advance.

I would take this opportunity to apologise for the uncomfortable conditions experienced within the building and highlight that the University is committed to investing in the buildings and fabric to ensure an improved student experience.

Can the heating in certain meeting rooms be fixed please?

Question:

Please could you advise if something can be done regarding the room temperature within a number of meeting rooms?

We have noticed that over the last few weeks, the temperature within the Cadman Conference Room and Cadman Executive Boardroom (at Stoke) and Octagon Boardroom (Beaconside) has been extremely cold.  This has meant that attendees have kept their coats on for the duration of the meetings and the situation has been rather embarrassing when external visitors have been present.

When low temperatures were experienced before Christmas, mobile heating units were placed in certain rooms however I would be grateful if you could advise if this is a problem which is likely to continue until Summer as we may need to re-think which rooms we book for meetings.

Answer:

Thank you for bringing this problem to our attention. We will check that the heating in the rooms you have mentioned is working correctly to try and resolve the issue.

For future reference,  the most appropriate way of reporting any further problems is to contact the Estates Repair Line esarep@staffs.ac.uk so that we can rectify the problem when it occurs and minimise discomfort to both internal and external users. Thank you.

Cadman Building Teaching Room F301

Question

There is a perennial problem in this teaching room. The windows in this room do not fit in the frames, so it is impossible to close them. The students have to sit in their coats and shiver. The atmosphere is not conducive to learning!

I emailed the Repair Line about this problem at the beginning of October after the students complained on one of the first cold mornings. I received an acknowledgement, but when nothing had been done after 3 weeks I emailed again but did not receive a reply. Last Thursday morning when I last taught in this room the situation had still not been resolved.

Last year the problem was solved by putting insulating tape around the frames to hold the windows closed. Of course, in the spring the tape was removed when someone needed to open them again. This solution is only a stop gap and a more permanent one is needed.

I hardly need to say that as well as causing the students a lot of discomfort, there are other implications too. The heating is shooting straight out of the open windows at enormous cost to the university and ultimately the tax payer, while the occupants of the room freeze. It’s not doing too much for the environment either.

Firstly, I would like to ask when something is going to be done about this.

Secondly, why has it taken so long?

Answer

The opening window frames in this room do not fit particularly well within the frames so we will be draughtproofing them again with a material which will be a permanent solution,unlike previously when masking tape was used – this will allow the windows to be opened in summer.

When visited, the room was cold but only because the windows had been left open and when closed the heating system quickly returned the room to an acceptable temperature.

This work will be carried out soon and we apologise for the delay in finding a solution.