Burst pipe in College Hall causes flood

Henry Roseman | Contributing Reporter

After a sprinkler pipe in College Hall froze and burst Jan. 16—causing a significant flood—College Hall will be closed off and under repair until at least Feb. 16.

The pipe froze after a heating element in the ceiling, specifically designed to keep these pipes warm, failed. A large amount of water gushed out of the broken pipe, leaving multiple inches of standing water on the floors for several hours.

According to Associate Director for Campus Life and Event Management team manager Phyllis Jackson, College Hall is one of the most popular event spaces on campus, as it is one of the only places that is large enough to seat 150-200 people.

“There’s something in there every day—a lot of evening activities,” Jackson said. “It’s one of the larger seated spaces, so, if there’s a need to seat a big group, 100-plus or so, that’s a good facility for that.”

Residential Life staff members are working to coordinate the repairs to College Hall.

According to Rob Wild, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, the flood caused the floor to buckle.

“[It] was deemed that [the floor] could not be easily repaired. So, a decision was made to replace it,” Wild said. “The damage was around $125,000, but [Washington] University carries insurance—and insurance will cover the majority of that cost.”

Wild hopes College Hall will be repaired by Feb. 16 but assures that student groups who rented the space prior to the flood have been relocated.

“That is a large event space on campus, [and] a lot of groups had it reserved. So, we’re working really hard, and we’re hoping that the space comes back online around Feb. 16,” Wild said. “Event Management has contacted all of the groups that were scheduled in there and has relocated them to other spaces on campus.”

Many events had been booked in College Hall during the time for which it will be closed. According to Jackson, groups that rented the space out for bigger parties are harder to relocate.

“It’s a challenge because it’s a large venue—so, if somebody has booked it for a lunch or a dinner for like 150-200 people…we just don’t have those larger spaces on campus. Those would probably be the more difficult ones to relocate,” Jackson said, “Some groups weren’t using it to the maximum capacity, so we were able to put them in smaller places. The Knight Center is working with us on our bigger events that were meals and things that needed to be relocated.”

The University is currently looking into ways to prevent a similar burst pipe in the future. Wild also shared tips for students to prevent pipes from freezing in their dorms or other spaces on campus.

“It’s fine to turn the heat down, but if you walk into a room, such as a common room or bathroom or another room that feels unusually cold, make sure that [you] notify maintenance so that they can check in on it and see if there is a heating issue in that space,” Wild said.

According to Wild, although repairs of this nature are unpredictable, the groups impacted by the burst pipe have been agreeable.

“It is disappointing for groups that were counting on using College Hall, but these things happen from time to time. And people for the most part have been very gracious, and we’ve certainly had to be flexible about it,” Wild said.