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Wednesday, May 3, 2000

  • Oiling the billion-dollar campus
  • Speaking of things burning out . . .
  • Praise for the provincial budget
  • And just a few other notes

[Three men on a roof]
Members of the electrical preventive maintenance crew -- Bill Burgess, Henry Morawski and Willard Pfohl -- check out an exhaust fan motor on the roof of Village I, one of more than 4,000 motors across campus that need regular attention to ensure safe functioning. (Photo by Barbara Elve.)

Oiling the billion-dollar campus -- abridged from today's Gazette

When the motor in a ventilating fan short-circuits, a leak in the roof leaves the insulation soggy with rainwater, or a pipe corrodes through, you know you've left the work too late.

"You can do breakdown maintenance, or you can do preventive maintenance," says David Churchill, UW's director of technical services. "You can't afford to do both."

Since the early days, he says, the emphasis at UW has been on preventive maintenance. And that's why Waterloo can take pride in having just about no "deferred maintenance" -- the work of patching, restoring, replacing and refurbishing that should have been done years ago but could never be afforded.

A recent report from the Canadian Association of University Business Officers estimated that across the country, campuses have some $3.6 billion worth of deferred maintenance, including entire buildings that have deteriorated almost past repair. Churchill and his colleagues in UW's plant operations department work hard to keep anything like that from happening here.

A computerized system spits out 35,000 "work orders" annually for the plant operations work force: oil this motor, inspect that roof, test this valve on a fire hose, call in an expert with an oscilloscope to check the interior condition of that complex machine. The department's green-clad army of mechanics, electricians, sheet metal workers and other specialists spend the bulk of their time doing tests and making repairs before little problems can turn into big ones.

The plant ops department is responsible for some four dozen buildings, the grounds around them, the tunnels and pipes underneath them and the furnishings and equipment inside them. The listed replacement value of UW's physical plant is $887 million, says Gene Starchuk, director of business operations for plant ops, who's a big believer in the preventive maintenance approach.

"If you're waiting until things break, you don't have the manpower to start doing preventive maintenance," he observes. Naturally, there are still sometimes breakdowns at UW, not to mention the need for renovations and other improvements to buildings. (He stops to explain the difference between routine "work orders" that keep things running and let the department track where the money is really going, and "work requests" for alterations to meet UW's changing needs.)

"We were lucky enough to start on the right path when we were smaller," says Starchuk. Churchill agrees with him, giving credit to Shaun Sloan, now retired from UW, as the man who introduced the preventive maintenance philosophy at UW.

"We go through the place, typically annually, and inspect everything, so that first of all we have a clear idea of what is on the way out -- so that when we have funding, we know where to put it. We don't try to do it all at once; we do as much as we can, year by year."

"It's the stitch-in-time philosophy," says Churchill. "You replace a five-dollar bearing" -- in an air conditioning fan, for example -- "before the motor burns out" and costs you many times that much.

Speaking of things burning out . . .

UW fire alarms sounded 114 times during 1999, mostly by accident, says the annual accident and fire report issued by UW's safety office.

"There were 3 cases of actual fire, fumes, smoke, which was a decrease from 6 in 1998," says the report. "There were no insured losses during 1999. All these fires were small and did not require an insurance claim."

The total of 114 fire alarms last year was almost exactly the same as the figure for 1998, 113.

"Most of the alarms (52) were at Village I and Ron Eydt Village," says the report. It lists just one call at V1 and one at REV as "wilful", meaning that the other 50 false alarms were accidental. By contrast, there were 10 wilful false alarms at the UW Place (married student apartment) complex.

Fire alarms were set off by everything from paint fumes to tobacco smoke, lightning and construction dust, the report indicates. None of the 1999 alarms were blamed on small children and none were set off by someone who needed help for reasons unrelated to fires.

Praise for the provincial budget

  • Ontario government budget site
  • CBC Newsworld coverage
  • Globe and Mail coverage
  • Last night's Ontario budget, rich with tax cuts, had a few mentions of universities and colleges, though it stopped short of providing any actual money for teaching the thousands of new students who are expected to descend on campuses in the next few years.

    The Council of Ontario Universities said it "welcomed" the budget, announced yesterday afternoon by provincial treasurer Ernie Eves. COU said the budget "provides new investment in research, capital and student assistance". That includes an increase in SuperBuild construction funds from the province -- which were originally budgeted at $742 million and will now hit $1,028 million.

    COU also spoke well about "the new research initiatives" in the budget, including "an expansion of the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund, a tripling of the Ontario Innovation Trust, doubling of the Premiers Research Excellence Awards, and a new Ontario Research Performance Fund to defray the overhead costs associated with Ontario-financed research".

    Said Paul Davenport, president of the University of Western Ontario and chair of COU: "The Government is building on its exceptional record of investment in research over the past three years. The research initiatives announced in today's Budget are good news for Ontario universities and reflect the priorities that universities and government identified collaboratively through the Working Group on University Research. The Province is expanding some very successful programs, while recognizing the overhead costs associated with university-based research."

    More from COU:

    [Map of Ontario] The Government has also provided significant new resources for the SuperBuild program. The addition of $286 million will help colleges and universities build new classrooms and labs, while upgrading existing facilities. This expansion of physical capacity will further help universities prepare for the huge demand pressures expected over this decade. Although the Budget does not commit further operating funds for enrolment expansion and quality enhancement, universities understand that constructing new facilities constitutes a significant first step toward an overall plan for dealing with increased future enrolments. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government to complete and implement this plan.
    Eves did include a few words in his budget speech about the need to help students and make room for more of them on Ontario campuses:
    We are also increasing access to education so that there will be a space in college or university for every qualified student who wants to obtain a post-secondary education. The Government will introduce improvements to help young people gain access to student loans for colleges, universities and vocational schools, by increasing the study-period employment and scholarship exemptions under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Funding will be doubled for the Ontario Work-Study Plan, which will enable universities and colleges to hire twice as many needy students. The number of Ontario Graduate Scholarships will be increased by more than 50 per cent and the value of each scholarship increased to $15,000.
    That's good too, said COU: "The Government has tabled an array of initiatives that will help students. The improved income exemptions will allow students to keep more of the money they earn. The greater number and higher value of the Ontario Graduate Scholarships along with the expansion of the Ontario-Work Study Program will help students meet their education costs. The new Educational Technology Tax Incentive should help colleges and universities acquire more advanced teaching equipment and learning technologies and improve the educational experience of students."

    Curator: Featured on the front page of today's Gazette is Carol Podedworny, the new curator of UW's art galleries, who says she has a "vision" for the galleries' role on campus.

    And just a few other notes

    First of all, the organizers of next week's open meeting with the candidates for president of the staff association have decided to move the event from Wednesday (May 10) to Thursday (May 11). The reason: to avoid a conflict with the Friends of the Library lecture by chemistry professor John Hepburn, which is scheduled for noontime on May 10. The staff association event will now be held Thursday, May 11, at 12 noon in Davis Centre room 1302.

    Happening today: a noontime seminar on "Cancer Prevention in Ontario: The Emerging Role of Cancer Care Ontario". The speaker is John Garcia of Cancer Care Ontario, who will speak in the Clarica Auditorium of the Lyle Hallman Institute (Matthews Hall west wing) at 12:30. The talk is one of a series sponsored by the Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation.

    UW president David Johnston is in Montréal tonight, back in a site that he must know well: the "Old McGill Room" of the McGill University faculty club. The occasion is a reception for UW alumni in the Montréal area, "to re-connect, network and socialize with fellow UW alumni".

    Finally, a note on something that happened yesterday: an open house at 550 Parkside Drive, where a UW spinoff company, Betacom Inc., is opening a new manufacturing facility. Graham Strong, director of the UW school of optometry, tells more: "Over the past decade, Centre for Sight Enhancement researchers have worked with Betacom Inc. to research and develop new products and services for people who are blind or low visioned. With funding support from the Ontario Rehabilitation Technology Consortium, this research and development partnership has led to the development of several highly successful low vision products. Betacom is opening a new engineering and manufacturing facility to increase its support for these ongoing collaborations. Located off Parkside Drive in Waterloo, this facility will be overseen by David Bevers, Betacom's director of product development. David also serves as project co-ordinator within the CSE's Sight Enhancement Engineering (WatSEE) laboratory."


    Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
    Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
    credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
    http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca | Yesterday's Bulletin
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