Surviving the summer heat has long been a bonding experience for Kettering University A-Section freshmen, but no more. Students will be able to keep their cool following a $3.5 million improvement project to Thompson Residence Hall that added air conditioning to the 33-year old building.
"It was difficult to retrofit the building," said President James E.A. John. "When General Motors builds a building, it is with thick concrete walls, making it a challenge to change."
"We've looked at many different plans to install air conditioning in that building over the years," said Donald Marshall, facilities manager. "They were either too costly or we didn't have enough electrical power available."
Carrier Corporation of Detroit designed an air induction system that solves the problem of installing air conditioning through the concrete walls and floors. Cooler than normal air is injected into the room and mixed with room air to maintain the designed 75-degree temperature and 50 percent humidity ratio, Marshall said.
During the three-week period between academic sessions, crews from two local contractors, Goyette Mechanical and Dee Cramer, worked to get cooling pipes installed through 856 bores in the floors and walls. With 464 rooms to retrofit and 480 distributor boxes to install and balance, between 70 and 90 people working 12 hours a day were needed to finish by July 11 - just in time for freshman orientation July 12.
The project was helped along by good weather. "The first week went extremely well," said Marshall, "having no rain was important because of the roof openings we had to lower pipes through." Work went so well in fact, Marshall said that after July 4, crews would only have to balance individual induction boxes in each room and install the housing to cover the room units.
That's good news for incoming freshmen. They won't have the problems the freshman class of 1968 had. According to Marshall, construction of Thompson Hall was delayed by a 101-day carpenter strike, pushing the opening back from August to October. The university had to house freshmen in the former Durant Hotel in downtown Flint and bus students back and forth for classes until the new dorm opened.