Physical Resources staff works to keep buildings functional during harsh winter

Madelyn Olsen


There are about 50 Physical Resources staff members working day and night to ensure that Roosevelt University’s Chicago Campus buildings are functional and livable in frigid Chicago temperatures.

This staff of 50 are nearly unnoticeable due to their offices’ location in the Wabash Building basement. They regularly use back elevators and a lower-level connecting tunnel from the Wabash Building to the Auditorium Building.

There are three basic sections of the Physical Resources staff that work to keep the school running in the winter: Housekeeping, Engineering and Campus Planning and Operations.

Each part is integral to the team as a whole, and each focus on different aspects of the upkeeping process.

“We basically operate the buildings,” said Paul Matthews, assistant vice president of Campus Planning and Operations. “It takes more intensity in the winter time, especially this cold, but I think you feel that we’re doing as great a job as we can to keep this place operational.”

The housekeepers might be the most familiar to students, as they consistently clean public areas. Housekeeping Manager Mariola Szklaruk manages a staff of 24 at the Chicago Campus and a staff of six at the Schaumburg Campus.
Szklaruk said that the key areas housekeeping focuses on during winter are the revolving doors, elevators and lobbies, as they quickly get covered in salt people bring in from outside.

“We have to mop it [and] vacuum — especially for the salt — because in this weather there’s a lot on the carpets, [and] in the washrooms, too, we have to mop,” Housekeeping Staff Member Viktoria Adamski said.

The engineers are responsible for managing the buildings’ temperatures.

“One of our challenges is that one of our cooling towers on the roof [of the Wabash Building] that runs during the winter cools the water that is used for the refrigeration equipment in the cafeteria,” Chief Engineer Gus Kalady explained. “That cooling tower up on the roof was freezing up on us, and ice was building up, and we weren’t able to heat the water. It was actually insulating itself … so we had to go up [to the 32nd floor] and actually chip off sheets of ice two-to-three inches thick off of the cooling tower in order to get the proper air flowing.”

In addition to monitoring the Building Automation System, which works the mechanicals of the machines, the engineers are responsible for air quality within the building.

As of right now, the air quality in the Wabash Building is at maximum fresh air potential, according to Kalady.
The staff of seven engineers works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure that the building is comfortable and breathable and that the elevators and doors remain functional.

Campus Planning and Operations staff are in charge of snow removal.

So far this winter, more than five tons of salt have been distributed. All of the ice melt products used are green and eco-friendly. Rock salt is not used because of its corrosive effects to buildings, people and dogs.

In addition to snow removal, staff constantly monitor weather reports throughout the day, so as to never be unprepared.

“The words ‘be diligent’ describe our painstaking effort during these conditions,” Robert Firszt, the liaison for the department said. “Manifested daily is the practical course of ‘be prepared, stay alert, keep up, stay ahead [and] be flexible.’ The unwelcome ‘x-factor’ is only momentary.”

Apart from these daily duties, the staff has a system called a “cold call.” A cold call informs the staff about a wet floor, broken window or any other issues on campus. Anytime someone dials 3600 from a building phone, the call goes through, and the request is tracked and entered into a program called the “School Dude” that records the requests to ensure that none go unanswered or unsolved.

So what can students do to contribute, or at least not hinder, this process of upkeep? The main thing students can do is call if any problems arise on campus, especially those that could be a danger, like a puddle on the floor.

Matthews also advised students to keep the windows in the residence hall closed.

“We have fresh air makeup on every floor, so we should have enough fresh air on all of the floors,” he said. “Keep the windows shut because it wastes energy, and it causes more expense for the university.”

The campus buildings don’t clean and maintain themselves, particularly during a bitterly cold winter. A lot of work happens behind the scenes that students may not notice, but the university’s buildings remain functional due to the work of the Physical Resources team.

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