Yes, the A/C is still running in Kerr Hall

Ryerson students feeling the chill outside — and inside — campus buildings won’t be relieved for another couple of weeks, as the school says it won’t be turning the air conditioning off until mid-October.

“I feel like I need to go (to Kerr Hall) in a small T-shirt, as well as bring my parka, at all times,” said Samuel Giguere, a third-year nursing student, who tweeted his frustration about the frigid classrooms.

Until the control system switches over from cooling to heating, there is no way to make campus spaces warmer, said Alan Fung, an air conditioning and control system specialist for the Ryerson Centre for Urban Energy.

“Because our entire system is on a schedule, we may not have the steam for heating right now,” he said.

Ryerson uses both steam and electricity-powered chillers to generate cool air that is blown out through fans.

The aim is to keep temperatures between 22 and 23 C at all times, but Fung said it might drop during unpredictable September weather.

“When we have a cold snap and we don’t really need cooling, we may encounter a little bit of freezing temperature inside the building,” he said.

Newer buildings like the Ted Rogers school of management have modern control systems that better maintain the 22-degree mark by varying the speed and amount of airflow coming out of the fans, said Adrian Williams, acting manager of Ryerson’s maintenance operations.

But in older spaces like Kerr Hall and the Rogers Communications Centre, Williams said it is harder to hit the target.

“It is a standard system in (Kerr Hall),” said Williams. “It’s very straightforward, you turn the fans on and basically that’s what you get.”

For students like Giguere, the lack of consistency in temperature is frustrating.

“This is my third year and I’ve done some summer courses and it never changes,” he said.

Temperature control boils down to building design, said Danny Harvey, an expert on energy-efficient buildings from the University of Toronto.

“If the building is well insulated and if you can open and close windows, you shouldn’t have to run an air conditioner today, it’s cool out right now,” he said. “But these buildings are generally so poorly designed that you have to cool it on days when the outside should be sufficient.”

Harvey said he thinks the government should help out universities with funding to renovate the structure and control systems in old buildings so they can keep in heat more efficiently.

“We have to put money into providing financial support to significant energy renovation programs,” he said. “But it costs a lot more money to fix a bad building than it does to build it right in the first place.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on October 2, 2013.

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