Howard University’s buildings were badly damaged last week when the steam flowing through the university’s structures clashed with the bitter cold causing pipes to burst. As the 180-degree steam seeped into the concrete, paint peeled and tiles flaked off the ceilings and floors.
Although a temporary boiler installed on Sunday secured heat for the D.C. institution’s hospital and residence halls, there is still much more work to be done before all the facilities are up and running. Classes are expected to begin on Monday, but the university administration is not sure when all the buildings will be operational.
“We’re maximizing efficiency of space utilization,” said Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Howard. She explained that, where possible, classes will be moved online. Additionally, class meeting times will be scheduled to accommodate the shortage of available classrooms.
The frigid temperatures crippled the heating system at the historically Black college, disabling both the primary and backup boilers on campus. The leaking steam caused moisture damage throughout the campus.
Dubroy said this was “one of the most significant impacts that a weather event has had on the campus.”
Three buildings—Douglass Hall, Annex 1 and Annex 2—will require extensive repairs and may not be operational this semester. Dubroy explained that dehumidification and mold remediation for these facilities will require additional time and resources.
The university will continue to shut off heat for two-hour intervals to repair the steam loop, Dubroy said. She ensured that students and faculty will be given notice in advance.
Thus far, she said the repairs have been going according to plan.
“I want to thank the workers. I can’t say that enough,” Dubroy said. “The patience and the understanding of the whole community has been phenomenal.”
Joseph Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org