What’s better than walking back from class on a hot day to relax in your cool, air-conditioned dorm room? Many Capital students do not have this luxury, and have to walk back from class on a hot day, to an even hotter room.
Two Saylor-Ackermann residents discussed the current situation of living in their residence hall with no air conditioning.
“[I was not] fully aware that there was no AC in SA, it’s not really something they made explicitly known,” one source said. “Even with the windows open, it was like 95 degrees outside and the rooms in here are, I mean, it was ridiculously hot.”
On the residence hall section of Capital’s website, the lack of air conditioning is not mentioned in the description of Saylor-Ackermann, although dorms that do have air conditioning include their air-conditioned status in the description.
A lack of air conditioning can have many effects on the students that live in these buildings, such as discomfort, lack of sleep, and decreased cognitive ability.
According to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study, researchers discovered students living in dorms without air conditioning during a heat wave had reduced cognitive function compared to students who lived in air conditioned dorms.
On top of the discomfort that hot and stuffy rooms can cause Saylor-Ackermann’s human residents, there are safety concerns for the pets that reside in the building, as well.
“I have an emotional support animal with me and he was panting the first few days I was here… it was that hot in this room,” one Saylor-Ackermann resident said.
Dogs and cats tend to overheat faster than humans, and heat stroke in a non-airconditioned room on a hot day is a real concern.
One large fan in the lobby and open windows have provided little relief during the early months of the school year.
“They haven’t really done anything in the hallways. The only attempt I’ve seen of them trying to cool down the building is they have like one large fan that was just in the lobby in Saylor-Ackermann kind of by [Capital Grounds],” another Saylor-Ackermann resident stated. “But it was just a fan… Since it’s so hot the fans don’t really do anything, it’s just blowing more hot air.”
Paul Matthews, director of Facilities Management, gave some insight as to why Saylor-Ackermann does not have air conditioning and what is being done about it.
“It was not designed to have air conditioning like many old buildings when they were built in the 50s or 60s. The institution decided not to [have] air conditioning in select buildings…” Matthews stated. “The reason why is because the heating system on those was from our central plant and it was steam heat and so steam heat doesn’t convert into cold water.”
According to Matthews, a study was done in September 2019 called the Saylor-Ackermann assessment study to figure out what needed to be done to prepare the facility for air conditioning.
“Yes, we are looking at putting air conditioning in. The first part that will probably be installed first is Ackermann. We’re looking at Ackermann right now… we have the electrical power necessary to handle air conditioning over there, we do not have the necessary power to handle Saylor,” Matthews said. “We can basically put room sized air conditioners in the windows. We’re not going to have central air conditioning, we’re going to have room air conditioning.”
The Ackermann side of the building, which is currently not being used, is getting upgraded electric, air conditioning, new windows, and cosmetic improvements that will be ready by the beginning of the 2022 fall term.
However, hope for air-conditioning on the Saylor side may not be completely lost.
“It’s being worked on because we have to determine the electric load and how many more electric panels we will have to put in on the Saylor side… but Saylor is still looking at yes, new windows, and yes, we’re trying to figure out how we can put the air conditioning in there,” Matthews said.
Matthews also addressed another issue in Saylor-Ackermann: mold growing in the women’s shower room that was left untouched for weeks.
“We did clean it up yesterday…We actually moved the housekeeper and put a new housekeeper in, because what was wrong was…we had a male housekeeper working in the female lavatories and he had a problem periodically going in there to try and clean. So, now what we’ve done is also switch it over to a female so that it’s more readily accessible than it once was,” Matthews said.
After struggling with no air conditioning and unclean shower rooms, Saylor-Ackermann residents will hopefully be seeing better living conditions in the future.