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Friday, June 20, 2008

An Update from the Provost on Returning to Somewhat More Normal Operations

The following message was sent Thursday to the University of Iowa community by UI Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Lola Lopes:

Dear Colleagues:

Although the worst part of the flood seems to be abating we are still in crisis mode regarding utilities (steam, chilled water, and electricity). This means that even though we are resuming classes, research, and other university operations on Monday, this is not a return to normal. We have beaten back a major catastrophe and should be proud of ourselves, but it will be many, many months before we return to full functioning. Until then, we need to continue to work as a team and always keep the functioning of the entire enterprise in mind.

From a utility point of view, the east and west sides of the campus are no longer connected. This means that conditions are different on the east and west sides of the river.

On the west, UIHC has been functioning throughout the crisis and classes will resume on Monday as scheduled. However, limits on availability of steam and chilled water mean that ramping research back up will need to be a controlled process in order to protect the system and prevent a set back. Interim VP for Research, Jordan Cohen, will oversee this process in consultation with deans and program directors.

The utility situation on the east side of the campus is even more fragile. As of this morning we were running at only 23% of normal chilled water capacity. If we are able to get the temporary chillers outside Old Music running, that will bring us to 40% which is probably the best we'll be able to do until steam is restored. Bottom line: we are all going to need to live gracefully with some discomfort. (Why steam is necessary for air conditioning is a whole other interesting story. I am going to try to get some information to you about this in the next few days.)

The strategy we discussed this morning involves running the chillers at night to bring down classroom and office building temperatures to a super-cooled state and then letting temperatures rise naturally during the day. In the daytime, the cooling capacity can be shifted to other areas such as labs that need air flow for hoods and other scientific apparatus. We also need to make sure that the IT infrastructure on this side of the river does not fail which means that IT areas need good cooling.

Many summer classes already meet in the morning when the buildings should be cool. If it become warm enough that afternoon classes are uncomfortable, faculty might try switching classes to early morning. (No, I am not joking, but I also appreciate that I might not get many takers on this idea!)

Parking is also in very short supply and some roads are still closed. Because of this, the university is encouraging faculty and staff to talk with their supervisors about flex-schedules or working from home. I am told that some researchers have found that forced time away from the lab is just right for writing grant proposals. That's an idea worth trying!

Before closing, let me recommend two web sites that provide information about the flood response that I found interesting. The company that has begun the "mucking out" operation in the flooded buildings is BMS CAT. We hope to have a story on the flood stories blog about BMS CAT soon, but in the meantime, you might enjoy looking at their web site ( I was also fascinated to learn about the Hesco Barriers that were used at IATL and IMU. There is a big interesting web site for Hesco. I recommend browsing the section on applications at The section on flood control ( is particularly apt.

Keep watching the UI flood blog ( ) and the flood stories blog ( We are all in this together and we are all sharing in the loss and in the recovery.

Best wishes,

Lola Lopes

Lola L. Lopes
Interim Executive Vice President and Provost
The University of Iowa
111 Jessup Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242
319 335-3565