Steam Tunnel Update

The steam tunnels underneath Wheeler Lawn are currently under construction to make heat and hot water more accessible around campus.

Students returned to Longwood’s campus in August to a surprise: the north part of campus blocked off due to steam tunnel construction. 

After a five month “break” away from campus due to the coronavirus pandemic, students were eager to return, but they were not so eager about new construction, which blocks the entrance to Brock Commons and the central part of campus.

Louise Waller, vice president of Administration and Finance, said that the goal of the construction is not to be obtrusive, but to increase productivity underground. 

“The Wheeler steam tunnels are the oldest ones on campus, which means it is harder to efficiently get heat and hot water to our campus buildings,” she said. “So we needed to update them before they fell apart.”

Construction broke ground in late May, specifically targeting the Wheeler Mall, Stevens, Upchurch and Hiner buildings. Although the pandemic did not delay the official start date, Waller said it did affect getting the necessary supplies.

“We already had a contractor selected and things set in place at the start of the pandemic,” she said. “But with the pandemic the materials we needed and how many employees we can have working at one time has been affected.”

Although construction is happening frequently around campus, the steam tunnels do not get replaced very often. Kim Bass, director of facilities, mentioned they rarely get worked on.

“It is a big expense that is not commonly seen, so sometimes it is not highly prioritized.”

Both Bass and Waller said that once this project is done, they will be finished working on the underground steam tunnels for the foreseeable future. As of now, construction is projected to finish in December, but campus will start opening up as soon as October. 

Waller said, “We are planning on opening up the entrance to Brock Commons the first part of October in order to move the project west, for completion in late December, early January.”

Students can expect a disruption on campus for the rest of the semester, but once they return in the spring, not only will construction be completed, but heat and hot water will be more accessible on campus. 

To learn more about the construction on campus, visit longwood.edu/cdc.

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