Infrastructure updates add comfort and convenience

People returning to Pullman this fall undoubtedly have noticed new buildings, trimmed shrubbery and re-paved roads. However, many less obvious aspects of the university infrastructure also have been altered.

WSU’s infrastructure — the facilities and services that allow most of us to accomplish our jobs — includes everything from Internet access and antivirus systems, to roads, electricity, air conditioning, heating, groundskeeping, plumbing and much more.

For starters, Capital Planning and Development is looking at the predesign of a second Pullman chiller system to augment the current campuswide chilled water loop, said Joe Kline, CPD project manager.

The chiller system keeps buildings cool in the summer. But it is under capacity, which explains why some buildings have limited cooling capabilities between 3 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the summer.

A second chiller system, however, will not help some of the older buildings on campus. The only way to make them more comfortable would be remodeling or reconstruction, Kline said.

Funding for this project is allocated through the state, with a budget of $7 million-$10 million. The plan is to start design in the next six months so the chiller can be in operation for all 2007 and spring 2008.

Within the current chiller system, the chillers handling the lion’s share of the work vary in age. The newest one dates back only one year; however, the oldest dates back to 1987. To gauge their capacity, Facilities Operations uses the measurement of tons. Tons are based on an old system where ice was physically delivered and one ton of ice meant one ton of cooling. Obviously, ice is not delivered to the school anymore, but the term stuck.

WSU’s chilled water loop has about 7,500 tons of cooling. The new chiller plant will add 1,500 tons initially, with room to add about 4,500 more tons as campus demand grows.

There are a couple of new buildings with their own chiller systems, such as the Plant Biosciences Building. However, these chillers have the capability to connect to the chiller system loop and add to overall university capacity if needed.

Cable and bandwidth
As of July 31, WSU officially switched television cable providers from Adelphia to Campus Televideo.

“The (Adelphia) contract ran out and we had to look at the most cost-effective way to do this,” said Dave Ostrom, director of communication and network services. “We posted a request and Campus Televideo was successful in helping us find a solution.”

The switch is not only fiscally smart; it also helps WSU move forward in using less legacy cabling and more fiber optic cables.

“Some of these (legacy) cables are 20 years old, with limited channels and distribution,” said Ostrom. “The fiber optic cable will allow other things to be done, including more freedom in channel lineup for the residence halls.”

Another change facing students, faculty and staff this year is a restriction on the amount of bandwidth they may use through the campus Internet service. With a growing number of file-sharing and download services used, campus operators found the system to be overwhelmed.

“We have chosen not to eliminate downloads altogether though, because some sharing is legitimate,” said Ostrom. “This system should work, as it will keep one person from overwhelming the system.”

Others, such as the University of Washington, are battling the same problem. Some have found some peace in signing agreements with companies like Dell and Napster to place music services on campus without using campus resources.

“I’ve been dreaming about doing that for years,” said Ostrom. “It would open up a tremendous amount of bandwidth.”

WSU has met with Dell and Napster and the Associated Students of WSU is evaluating the service. But the university would need to find funding. This program would use equipment located on campus that would “cache” the music files. Caching would curb bandwidth because frequently used files would only need bandwidth once.

Despite the decrease in downloading capability, users should find an overall increase in Internet service. “The lines put in now give a maximum bandwidth of 155 mb, whereas in 2001 you got 45 mb,” said Ostrom.