MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) Work crews and equipment will be at the University of Montana for a two-year span beginning this month, as the campus heating system undergoes a $9 million upgrade that requires tearing up sidewalks and removing trees.
UM officials expect parking places to be blocked off and buses rerouted, with the entire project causing enough disruption to require posting maps around the construction zone.
Workers will upgrade the university’s vast system that sends steam heat through pipes in tunnels. Many of the pipes are more than 70 years old.
“These pipes have a life expectancy of 50 years, and while we are pleased they have lasted this long, they are now losing heat and we have a lot of inefficient lines,” said Mike Panisko, project manager of the university.
Given the need to replace pipes, it makes sense to improve the entire system, Panisko said.
“What we are doing is putting in place the infrastructure for the next 100 years,” he said. “That’s really the scope and scale of this project.”
Besides replacing old pipes, work includes constructing approximately .5 mi. (.8 km) of tunnels.
Two gas-powered boilers turn water into steam heat for the campus. In the oldest buildings, heat emerges through original radiators and in those newer it is channeled into an exchange system. Steam not used is cooled, condensed and reused.
“We heat this entire campus with just a few boilers,” said Laura Howe, UM assistant director of utilities and engineering. “If we heated any other way, each building on campus would have to house rooms full of boilers, or we would have to have gas lines everywhere.”
Panisko said he expects people to be annoyed about the disruption, and particularly disturbed about the removal of trees. Approximately 60, most of them Norway maples, will be cut in the vicinity of the campus’ Gallagher Business Building.
“We are working with the campus arboretum committee, and after the construction, those trees will be replaced with new trees, the variety of which has yet to be determined,” Panisko said.
There are plans to avoid trees in other parts of campus where tunnel work will occur. In some cases, routes for construction machinery have been redrawn to take a long path around trees such as the oak grove near the Fine Arts Building.
“We expect the oak grove to remain intact, and we have a strict tree policy in place,” Howe said. “We will be working case by case with the arboretum committee for the health and protection of each tree.”
Committee member Kelly Chadwick said the maples to be removed are old, have been damaged by storms and probably would need to be removed soon, regardless of the construction work.