Academic building Stillwell flooding leaves whole wings unavailable

Classes in the teaching lab and research wing of the third and fourth floors of Stillwell have been canceled due to a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit malfunction.

Safety Director Jon Maddy said what exactly caused the malfunction is still under investigation, though he believes the problem originated in a HVAC unit. It is believed that water got into one of the unit’s coils, causing hot water to be released into the duct work and travel through the building.

The first sign of trouble came when a fire alarm sounded early Monday morning. The alarm erupted when condensation reached the smoke detector in the HVAC unit. It is believed that the moisture shorted out the detector, causing the alarm.

At 7:45 a.m., Facilities Management and Housekeeping were called in to begin clean-up for what was originally believed to be a leak caused by a frozen steam valve.

“When something like this happens, we [Facilities Management and Housekeeping day shift] jump in. We were the first responders,” said Brian Buchanan of Facilities Management.

Maddy said it is still unclear whether or not a steam valve had anything to do with the malfunction, and that they will have a better idea of the damage in the morning.

A local SERVPRO fire and water clean-up and restoration team was called in to help with the clean-up effort. The team helped stabilize the leak, which has slowed down considerably. Maddy said they will work through the night and into Tuesday morning to assess the damage and get a better idea of how long the clean-up will take.

SERVPRO will also determine a better idea of what needs to be done first, said Maddy.

“We’ll have a better time frame to see when labs will open,” said Maddy.

The leak is believed to have started on the fourth floor. When the water began running in the ductwork, it traveled down to the first floor.

All four floors were affected. Fourth floor damage extends through the teaching and research labs on the chemistry and physics side while damage on the third floor extends through the labs on the geosciences wing. Both wings have been shut down, lined with signs asking students not to enter.

Research Operations Manager for the College of Arts and Sciences Wes Bintz said the first and second floor’s damage is restricted to one classroom each.

“It will be up to the Dean’s office to decide whether classes are canceled,” said Bintz.

While no official estimate of damage has been released, Buchanan suspects the amount to be in the thousands.

“Our main goal is to get everything up and running so students aren’t impacted,” said Buchanan.

For more information, contact Facilities Management at 828-227-7442.