How BCIT Facilities Services keeps campuses running after extreme cold weather conditions

At the end of December 2021, the Lower Mainland experienced its coldest temperatures for many years. Lakes and ponds froze solid and even the smallest hill in local parks became a sledging destination.

Extreme cold weather conditions pose challenges to the water and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that serve buildings. At BCIT, the record cold — combined with a time when campus was largely unoccupied — meant damage to pipes and HVAC systems that serve several buildings.

BCIT Facilities Services maintains an onsite response team at all times and they quickly identified  and fixed issues related to damaged pipes and HVAC systems.

In households, the most common problem from extreme cold is a burst pipe, but most of the problems experienced on BCIT campuses were the result of freezing damage to the heating coils in the large ventilation systems that serve buildings.

These coils take heat from hot water and transfer it to the air ducts, circulating air and heating a space. When these are damaged, ventilation in the building is seriously affected. Replacement coils need to be specially fabricated, so the team had to improvise a solution to provide heat and ventilation to BCIT buildings.

The team worked with one of our solution providers, Cool Air Rentals, who provide temporary heating and cooling equipment for situations like this.

The solution the teams came up with was to install portable electric furnaces in several buildings. These were then wired into the existing systems by BCIT’s specialist teams to provide warmed and circulating air throughout a building. These operate as an excellent temporary solution while the new hydronic heating coils are fabricated from scratch.

Temporary Electrical Furnaces in SW2
Temporary heat solution for SW2 The power comes from the penthouse mechanical room along the roof down to the 18KW heater placed into the unit on the lower roof

John O’Malley, president at Cool Air says: “We were very pleased to work with BCIT to solve this problem. We always aim to provide a solution that can be installed quickly and removed as easily as possible, once a permanent fix has been set up. Electrical furnaces were ideal in this case because they provide a reliable source of portable instant heat.”

Peter Morgana, Manager of Facilities Services in Mechanical at BCIT says: “It’s been a great effort from the teams to get things back and running so quickly. Because the temperatures were so extreme it was a difficult event to plan for. Thankfully we have the in-house expertise to come up with a creative solution that allowed to keep things running with minimal disruption for staff, students, and visitors to our campus.”

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