NSU Invests Over $5 Million to Upgrade Leoser Complex Systems | News

Northeastern State University officials are investing more than $5 million in federal funds to upgrade heating and cooling systems at the Leoser complex.

NSU officials plan to use $5.5 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to upgrade HVAC systems in three buildings on the Tahlequah campus. The lion’s share of this money – around $5.2 million – will go towards improving the heating and air conditioning of the Leoser complex. Built in the 1960s, the residential complex houses primarily freshmen as well as administrative offices for housing and residence life, The Northeastern student newspaper, and others. The remaining funds will be used to make improvements to the Fine Arts Annex and Bagley Hall.

Harold McMillen, NSU’s acting physical plant director, said the buildings were assessed based on their current condition, occupant safety and impact on students. McMillen said the prime contractor working on the system upgrade at Leoser is Williams Contracting, but NSU officials also plan to hire for other phases of the project. The tentative plan is for newly mobilized contractors to work on the south wings of the building first before releasing the north wings for work over the summer.

McMillen said the resort currently uses an existing two-pipe HVAC system to heat and cool the building. Contractors will replace all steel pipes, which have been determined to have reached or exceeded their average life, which significantly hampers their efficiency and leads to additional maintenance and upkeep. He said the existing two-pipe HVAC system will be replaced with a Nupi or Aquatherm piping system. He said that unlike steel, this type of piping should last a lifetime.

“Piping is an expensive commodity, but it’s a buy once, cry once commodity,” McMillen said. “We’re paying a lot now, and we’re paying a premium to install it, but it saves us money on maintenance, repairs and just overall efficiency.”

Along with replacing the piping, McMillen said other work completed included upgrading insulation, sensors and valves serving the system. He added that when there are major adjustments to an HVAC system, like on this project, they also try to update the control system, if necessary.

In addition to replacing existing piping at the Leoser complex, McMillen said crews will also add four dedicated outdoor air systems to service the various wings of the complex. Adding a DOAS unit should bring in clean, fresh air that has been filtered, conditioned, and dehumidified to improve air quality and circulation. McMillen added that such systems help the longevity of the building by mitigating humidity so that there is no buildup of moisture inside the walls.

While the Leoser Complex is expected to make up the bulk of the HVAC upgrades planned soon, NSU officials also plan to upgrade systems in the Fine Arts Annex and Bagley Hall. McMillen said that currently the Fine Arts Annex is serviced by two-pipe and four-pipe HVAC systems. Crews plan to make upgrades so that the entire building uses a four-pipe HVAC system. McMillen said this should improve efficiency and make maintenance easier.

McMillen said work on Bagley Hall was in the planning stage. According to McMillen, to meet HEERF requirements, all construction must be completed by summer 2023.

“Our needs change, our expectations change, our standards change and we have to change them and improve with them,” McMillen said. “We try to make whatever adjustments we can to meet the modern needs of these buildings.”

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