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March 22, 2001

Plans call for cooler, less congested Cathedral

Central air conditioning throughout the Cathedral of Learning?

Undergraduate classes restricted to the Cathedral's ground-through-third floors — eliminating elevator traffic jams caused by hundreds of students simultaneously trying to reach, or return from, upper floor classrooms?

Those long-held dreams should come true by the end of the decade, Pitt administrators told a University Senate committee last week.

Pitt has installed chilled water lines underground from Posvar Hall (site of a planned new chilled water facility) to the Cathedral. Access to chilled water is a key prerequisite for central air conditioning.

The University will include chilled water pipes in a new power shaft, or "spine," running all the way up the Cathedral. This shaft also will contain data cables and pipes carrying water for emergency sprinklers.

"We're starting to design the first phase of the air conditioning project, which will air condition the lower four floors of the Cathedral," said Ana M. Guzman, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management.

"Having the Cathedral fully air conditioned is going to depend on how much renovation is being done on the upper floors," she said. "As we renovate those spaces, we can tie into the two chilled water pipes we're putting in."

It's safe to project that the Cathedral will be centrally air conditioned by the end of the decade, Guzman told the University Senate budget policies committee on March 16. Currently, some 200 window air conditioners and 21 larger AC units operate in the Cathedral, said Guzman.

She and John A. Sopcisak, assistant vice chancellor in Facilities Management's planning, design and construction department, updated the committee on Pitt construction projects.

They noted that Pitt is an unusually "vertical" university that depends heavily on elevators — 159 of them, the oldest dating back to 1935. "Imagine maintaining a fleet of cars, some of them brand new and some 65 years old," Guzman said.

"They're all safe and functional. They all pass safety inspections. But the electronics [systems] just are not there in some cases. Parts constantly have to be replaced."

This year, Pitt plans to spend $1.3 million to upgrade elevators in the Chevron Science Center, the Graduate School of Public Health, the Information Sciences Building and Thackeray Hall, said Guzman.

Facilities Management upgraded electronic systems in the Cathedral elevators several years ago, speeding them significantly. "Of course, people have gotten used to it now, and they're complaining again about delays," Guzman said.

"People have become a lot less used to waiting for elevators," she added. "It used to be that a two-minute wait for an elevator was common. Nowadays, if you have to wait more than 10 seconds for an elevator, people get impatient."

Robert F. Pack, vice provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management, said: "It's still our goal to get classes, particularly undergraduate classes with large enrollments, out of the Cathedral above the third floor.

"We want to restrict upper- floor classes to small, graduate seminar type classes." Pitt will meet that goal as alternate classrooms become available in other buildings, he said. Recently, the University stopped holding undergraduate classes on the 12th floor, Pack noted.

"Classes and elevators don't mix," Guzman said. "When you've got 50 students going up and 50 going down at the same time, you get a traffic jam."

— Bruce Steele

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