Bowman Hall set for HVAC overhaul

Colin Baker

Next year, Kent State students will have an easier time listening to their professors in classes held in Bowman Hall.

Starting in summer 2018, Bowman Hall’s failing two-pipe heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems will be replaced with a quieter and more efficient centralized heating and cooling plant, as part of a package that will also update the lighting and fire suppression systems.

Bowman Hall was first constructed in 1962, and as of the Fall 2017 semester is still using the original HVAC and piping system.

“(Bowman) is a building that is of an age or vintage that its mechanical system was beyond its useful life,” said Joseph Graham, the associate director of architecture and engineering for Kent State. “It has a two-pipe system that distributes either hot or cold water individually to units in each classroom or office. … the limitations of that system are that they are hard to maintain. You have a lot of moving parts and pieces throughout the building.”

Kent State faculty have also experienced issues with the heating and cooling units in Bowman Hall’s classrooms.

Lawrence Marks, an associate professor of marketing and entrepreneurship, has regularly taught classes in Room 133 of Bowman Hall, a large lecture hall, for the last ten years.

“There are time periods when it is way too hot, or way too cold, that of course distracts me, and it would also distract students as well,” Marks said. “If it is sweltering, it makes it harder for the students to sit, stay awake and pay attention.”

“The classrooms are very small, especially when you have 50 students, when your class is filled up and they are usually very hot,” said Robert Gala, an adjunct instructor in religion studies, who has taught classes in Bowman for four years.

Gala pointed to a flyer for [email protected] on the wall, and said, “You call or email that number … and nothing ever gets done, the rooms are still incredibly hot.”

He also noted the noise generated from the heating and cooling units in the classrooms.

“Sometimes the heaters are loud, the rooms are small enough that the students can hear me and I can hear them, but it is distracting,” Gala said.

Graham said as the building ages, the classroom heating and cooling units are harder to maintain and keep operating.

“They also are louder … each classroom unit has a motor, fan and coil in it, and when that is running, it can be a bit distracting to the students,” Graham said. “So we went to a centralized distribution system, a forced air system, that is quieter.”

Along with the improvements in heating and air conditioning, Marks suggested other means to improve the learning experience for students in Bowman Hall.

“The students don’t have anywhere to plug in their electronics, so if their laptop that they are using … to take notes needs power, I don’t think they have much options within that classroom,” Marks said.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning renovations will begin on the first floor of Bowman Hall early this summer. The total projected cost of the renovations is $4 million.

Colin Baker is the architecture and construction reporter. Contact him at [email protected].