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Pipe bursts in Sayles-Hill, campus adjusts

During the first week of Winter Term, a sustained cold weather snap caused multiple pipes to burst across campus just as students returned to Northfield. The most heavily affected area was the Sayles-Hill Campus Center, which reopened Monday after remaining closed for nearly a week after a sprinkler pipe in the ceiling burst on Tuesday, Jan. 2. Additionally, a smaller heating pipe in Davis Hall burst on Thursday evening.

Steve Spehn, director of facilities and capital planning, said that “it was a 2.5-inch sprinkler line that froze and burst. Thank goodness it was during business hours and people were here working, because we responded pretty quickly and had it shut off within fifteen minutes. But 2.5 is a large line—almost the size of a fire hydrant line.”

Spehn estimated that before the leak was contained, the pipe in Sayles released about 250 gallons of water per minute.
“The heating pipe in the Northwest corner of Davis affected the second, third, and fourth floors. It came through the wall, but we came in the middle of night, repaired it, and got everything back to normal,” said Mitch Miller, maintenance manager.

The size of the line and its location in the attic of Sayles resulted in widespread impacts for all of campus, as the Post Office, the Bookstore, wSayles Hill Cafe, the Student Activities Office (SAO), the Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE), and the Carletonian were all displacedfrom their offices until the affected areas could be properly cleaned and repaired.

“Sayles is the heartbeat and pulse of campus. When the building closes unexpectedly, it really impacts the lives of students, faculty and staff,” said Lee Clark, director of SAO.

According to Spehn, the most heavily damaged areas were the offices of the Carletonian and the Sayles-Hill Lounge, “because the burst was directly above the lounge. Both of those spaces were hit the hardest, to the point where they are still offline and will still be offline until we can do a full renovation. The water went down from there, into the post office, the lobby and then even made it all of the way down into the basement. Some of the kitchen and the serving areas were also affected.”

Because access to Sayles was limited to those cleaning up the water, the Bookstore, Post Office and Campus Services were initially closed, and then temporarily relocated to provide services in the Great Hall, as students returning to campus required packages and books for upcoming classes.

Amel Gorani, Director of the CCCE, said that “only a small part of the office downstairs has been impacted. Water came in about a foot or two under the door into one of the offices downstairs.” The CCCE was temporally relocated to the library but returned to its normal offices on Monday.

The Sayles-Hill Cafe was also hit by the pipe burst, according to Bon Appetit Dining Services Manager, Katie McKenna.

“The water flooded the floor of Sayles Cafe. It affected the lighting in the Cafe, and we had some product loss. All of the electrical needed to be checked to insure its safety.  The water coming into the Cafe was dripping from the ceiling in the serving area and almost hit the registers, but we were able to move them before there was any damage,” McKenna said.

Spehn said that Carleton has made an insurance claim, but “we haven’t gotten final estimates for anything yet, we’re still accumulating the costs and seeing where it lands.”

A company who specializes in water damage was brought in by the college to assess the drying process. Spehn added that while Sayles is currently open, there will be repairs beyond the two most affected areas.

“There will be some other restorations work. The carpet upstairs in the lobby area will probably end up getting replaced. For now, it’s dry, and we can use it. During the summer we can go back in and replace some carpet, maybe some ceilings. They may be dry, but they could have warped a little bit. We’ll evaluate that, and if it’s been damaged, we’ll fix it,” he said.

Spehn said that the incident will not affect the Sayles Space Plan, which includes renovation and refurbishing much of the current spatial arrangement of Sayles-Hill, saying, “it won’t change anything. We’ll start earlier and accelerate the Carletonian’s move.”

Despite the unexpected pipe bursts, SAO Director Lee Clark added that “we were really impressed with how the campus community pulled together to get Sayles back online; there were many unsung heroes last week who went above and beyond, including Facilities, Campus Services and ITS. For the most part, folks were very understanding and patient with the setback. This disaster highlighted just how vital the Sayles-Hill Campus Center and its services are to Carleton.”

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