College offers cots in Sarner to escape heat

by Zachary Benjamin | 7/6/18 2:40am

cots

The College began setting up cots on Tuesday in Sarner to help students escape the summer heat wave.

by Peter Charalambous / The Dartmouth Staff

As temperatures reached the mid-90s this past week, students have struggled to escape the heat. While the night usually brings a reprieve from the heat for students, the recent heat wave stayed strong past sunset, creating issues for students trying to sleep in non-air conditioned dorms and forcing the College to offer alternative options.

Senior associate dean of student affairs Liz Agosto ’01 emailed students on Tuesday that cots would be available in Sarner Underground for them to sleep on overnight on a first-come, first-served basis for the next three days. The space would be quiet and non-private, Agosto wrote, and students would be expected to leave first thing in the morning.

This is the first time since 2011 that the College has offered cots for students to sleep on in response to extreme heat. In an interview with The Dartmouth, Agosto confirmed that students have taken advantage of the cots in Sarner, though she clarified in a later email statement that only a few have done so.

Dartmouth does not normally offer alternative sleeping spaces because temperatures are usually lower during the evening, but in response to heat advisories this week, the College felt it was necessary to take precautions, she said. The decision was made as a group by officials from various offices, Agosto said, and ultimately went to the Dean of the College and facilities officials for approval.

Kathryn Lively, who assumed office as interim Dean of the College on July 1 from outgoing dean Rebecca Biron, said that she was unable to attend the officials’ meeting, as she had just returned to campus from a research trip, but that she told Agosto she would support any decision that was made. Agosto said that both Biron and Lively were informed of the decision.

Biron, who is currently traveling, did not return a request for comment by press time.

Agosto also wrote in her email that the Collis Center and the House Centers, which normally close at 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. during the week, respectively, would be open 24/7 during the week for students to cool down. These spaces remained open primarily to keep students cool should they wish to study during the night, Agosto said in the interview.

“While we weren’t encouraging sleeping in those spaces, if a student fell asleep at a table, we weren’t necessarily going to wake them up and move them,” she said.

No on-campus residence halls open to students have central air conditioning during the summer, according to Frank Roberts, associate vice president of facilities and operation management. Alphi Phi sorority’s house, Kappa Delta sorority’s house and the Triangle House are the only College-owned, on-campus housing options open to students that offer air conditioning, he said. The Office of Residential Life prohibits students without medical conditions who live in residence halls or College-owned Greek houses from installing their own air conditioners for safety reasons.

“Not all of our buildings have A.C., and so having only some of our students getting access to A.C. and others not certainly isn’t equitable,” Agosto said. “Making spaces available that any student could access, at this point, seemed like a fair option.”

Roberts noted that air-conditioned dorms have historically been offered to camps and conferences hosted at Dartmouth during the summer.

“I wasn’t around when the decision was made [to install air conditioning] for the East Wheelock Cluster … but I know there was discussion of, if you want to recruit some of the exec ed[ucation] programs and other camps and conferences to Dartmouth in the summer, you need to be able to provide air conditioning to compete,” Roberts said.

Even as the College works to keep students cool, various facilities have attempted to lower their energy usage this week in response to peak electricity demand levels in New England.

An email Roberts sent to campus on Monday noted that New England could potentially reach a new peak energy demand for the year on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday. Because the College’s electricity rate for the year is determined in part based on its energy usage during peak demand, Roberts asked for students, faculty and staff to reduce their energy usage on those days by doing things such as turning off lights and unplugging appliances while they were not in use.

Roberts’s email also noted that FO&M workers would be reducing electrical usage in “non-critical” central systems. In an interview with The Dartmouth, Roberts cited the Alumni Gymnasium and Florin Varsity House as examples of non-critical systems, noting that FO&M had turned off the chiller for those buildings during potential peak demand days.

“People in the gym in Florin are gonna be uncomfortable for a bit,” he said. “As soon as we think the peak is over, we will turn [the chiller] back on.”

Other areas, such as research laboratories, data centers and the Hood Museum, were not impacted by the conservation efforts, Roberts said.

Another way the College is working to reduce its electrical demand on peak energy days is by cogenerating more of its own electricity, rather than buying it from the electrical utility. Burning fuel generates steam, some of which the College then sends through a turbine to cogenerate electricity and the rest of which is distributed to campus to heat buildings. On some hot days, the College cannot use all of the steam it would normally distribute, so it uses that steam to instead cogenerate electricity, which ends up being cheaper than buying it from the utility, Roberts said.

In an email to The Dartmouth following his interview, Roberts estimated that power-saving efforts on Tuesday saved 4.5 megawatts of electrical demand, which would represent a $400,000 cost avoidance over the next year should Tuesday end up being the peak demand day for New England. Prior to reduction efforts, the College’s demand was slightly over 11 megawatts, Roberts wrote.

The College typically spends about $800,000 per year on electrical demand charges, Roberts said.

Roberts said that the drive to reduce energy demand and the decision to offer cots in Sarner were not related, save for the fact that both were ultimately because of the heat.

Correction appended (July 7, 2018): This article has been updated to reflect that the College's power-saving efforts on peak demand day would represent a cost avoidance, rather than savings, for the upcoming financial year.