Every college house at Penn will finally have air conditioning this semester after years of students’ suffering disparately high heat levels on campus.
To the relief of many of its residents, the Board of Trustees voted in November 2019 to install air conditioning into Gregory College House, which was the last college house on campus without air conditioning. The vote followed the installation of AC into Du Bois College House and Kings Court English College House in the summer of 2019.
The addition of new cooling systems in all of the Facilities and Real Estate Services’ buildings is the fulfillment of Penn Business Services’ long-term plans that have been implemented over time, FRES Executive Director of Design and Construction Mike Dausch said. While the main construction on Gregory was supposed to take place during the summer of 2020 in time for the 2020-2021 academic year, Dausch said the COVID-19 pandemic caused many equipment manufacturing plants to temporarily close and delay the project.
Project Manager Greta Cooney said that Gregory’s renovation was split into three phases. The first phase took place in the winter months of of 2019 to 2020 and consisted of enabling work, which helps prepare a site for further construction, and upgrading the campus-wide heat exchange system in 1920 Commons to allow for an addition to the University’s chilled water system.
Gregory’s second phase of renovation in the summer of 2020 included select construction tasks that were able to be completed under pandemic circumstances, such as extending underground piping and working on the balcony roofs of Gregory’s two buildings, Van Pelt Manor and Class of 1925.
The third phase — main construction — took place from Nov. 1, 2020, through April 1, 2021. In addition to installing air conditioning, the windows and bedroom closet doors were replaced, and interior halls and rooms were repainted.
Dausch and Cooney said that protective measures taken against the pandemic during construction included the development of a site-specific COVID-19 safety plan, mask requirements, and working shifts to promote social distancing.
In March, House Coordinator Domenic Gaeta had highlighted the renovations in an email sent to Gregory residents about housing selection for the upcoming year. The heat had previously driven some students in non-air-conditioned dorms to sleep in lounges and other common spaces, with efforts to provide students with box fans proving unsuccessful.
“As you’re probably already aware, Gregory College House is currently under construction, but the renovations are almost complete! The past couple of months have brought air conditioning, new windows, and a fresh coat of paint to all rooms and halls,” Gaeta wrote in the email.