Why Are All the Pipes Bursting?

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Published March 13, 2023
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The Montclarion
Hannah Effinger | The Montclarion

We all know that college dorm buildings are not the most sophisticated pieces of architecture in the slightest, but when they are built for and available to students to live in — it is expected that they have some degree of safety against the elements, and are able to keep the belongings of their students as safe as possible. Especially if students are shelling out thousands of dollars per semester in housing costs.

Sadly, this is not a problem exclusive to Montclair State University. With the severity of global warming increasing rapidly – sporadic, intense cold fronts are becoming more and more common, and though they are happening during normal cold seasons, it becomes difficult to prepare for these events.

According to a Stanford University study, “widespread changes in weather patterns and increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events are well-documented consequences of global climate change. These departures from old norms can bring storms, droughts, heatwaves and wildfire conditions beyond what infrastructure has been designed to withstand or what people have come to expect.”

While difficult to prepare for, it is not impossible to invest in ways that would help in the future, as at this rate, it seems like the worsening of this problem will become inevitable.

Aside from the bigger problem of the entire planet heating, you’d think after years of close calls and smaller incidents, more preventative measures would be taken to reduce the number and severity of these occurrences on campus. But after December’s Williams Hall flood and January’s Fenwick Hall flood, it seems that we have learned nothing and will continue to do so until a pipe bursts in every building on campus.

There are a few ways to reduce the risk of pipe bursting in buildings, and without a degree in contracting or any construction experience, I was able to find a few of these which may help Montclair State and other institutions to prevent these incidents in the future.

The first and easiest way to reduce pipe bursts is by installing appropriate pipe insulation. This is a step that is normally taken when the buildings are initially constructed, but since Montclair State’s current insulation or lack thereof is obviously inadequate, it might be worthwhile to look into other more powerful types of insulation. This can also be combined with better building insulation, as more layers are better when keeping pipes at above-freezing temperatures.

Another way to prevent pipe bursts may seem like the simplest solution, but keeping buildings at a higher temperature is the easiest way to keep pipes at a consistently warm temperature. Most buildings on campus are extremely cold during the winter, including the general temperature of residence halls on campus. I know it would be more money for schools to turn up the heat a little more during the winter, but it’s a first step in preventing pipe bursts.

A last more labor-intensive way to protect the pipes is to have students leak their faucets in colder temperatures or when the pipes would be left alone for long periods of time. Though this may waste water and rack up a bit of a higher water bill, this is nothing in comparison to the thousands of dollars in damages caused by the impacts of a pipe burst.

In addition, preparedness for when occurrences like this happen can also lessen their impact. For example, being able to provide adequate housing, meal plans, accommodations and eventually, appropriate credit for lost items and time out of original living situations are all ways to ease the burden placed on students when they fall victim to events like these.

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