Lee Jones, For The Miami Student

Construction crews work to replace water pipes on western campus near Peabody Hall. Construction began March 1 to increase water capacity. (KATHRYN ANDERSON | The Miami Student)

In these early spring days, the newly green grass and budding flowers on Western campus have to compete with plastic, orange construction barricades for the average passerby’s attention.

Since March 1, construction crews have been working on a major overhaul of Miami University’s steam distribution system, powered by a plant behind Peabody Hall. All hot water, humidification and winter heating come from the steam power produced by this plant.

“This project is a replacement of the water supply means, as well as steam distribution means,” said Doug Hammerle, senior project manager for Miami’s Physical Facilities Department.

Hammerle said 95 percent of campus is heated by steam. He said if the waterline or steam line would spring a leak, nearly all on-campus heating would disappear. The plan for this project is both to enlarge the pipes to bring in water and ensure that the steam distribution system will always be functional.

The current water supply line is a six-inch pipe, but when the project is finished a 12-inch pipe will replace it. This will allow for a lot more water to come into the plant and more potential steam output as well.

Hammerle said the new pipe will “improve hydraulics for fire protection.”

Construction workers Jason Wullenwebber and Dalton Folsom have been on the project for a month. They were fixing a leaky pipe in front of McKee Hall Friday, April 9. Folsom was working in a nearly six-and-a-half foot hole to loosen a segment of broken pipe, which Wullenwebber was going to pull out with the use of a backhoe.

When asked what they were working on at the moment, Folsom grinned and said, “Well, I’m the only one working here,” and looked up from the deep hole at Wullenwebber, who was chuckling as well.

According to Hammerle, the above ground work will be finished by August, just in time to welcome students back to campus, but the updated heat distribution system will not be fully functional until winter, when buildings will need to be heated.

First-year Angela Brito-Silva, a Spanish education major, said making the heating process more efficient is a good idea.

“If it will help the students, let’s make it happen as soon as possible,” Brito-Silva said.