February 7, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 5

School ventilators at end of service life

Air-exchange units in Haines High School’s relocated art room that are loud and interfering with teaching need to be replaced, according to facilities director Carlos Jimenez.

Replacing the equipment may cost as much as $303,000, but Jimenez said this week he’d pursue a short-term fix including replacing motors, belts and “vibration isolators,” a less expensive option that might help reduce noise.

Jimenez recently received a report on the units from Murray and Associates, a Juneau engineering firm that inspected the units for condition and noise problems.

“These supply and exhaust fans are 40 years old and have reached the end of their service life. A condition survey performed in 2004 for the school prior to the new construction designated these fans as having 5-10 years’ life left,” wrote engineer Doug Murray.

The report found the noise level in the art room with all fans operating measured 62 decibels, “at the upper end of acceptable noise levels for classrooms” at 65 decibels.

The south end of the art room sits below the building’s fan room, where three large fan systems supplied ventilation to the original high school building. With two of the fan systems shut off, the decibel level drops to 45, the report said.

Murray’s long-term recommendations include replacing the fan systems, modifying ductwork in the ceiling of the art room and modifying ductwork to reduce noise.

The borough also should consider installing an exhaust fan on the ceiling above the art room and kiln area to keep odors and fumes created in the art room from infiltrating the rest of the school, engineers said.

Noise in the art room includes rumbling from exposed ductwork, vibration noises coming directly from fans themselves and air noise that is turbulence “from the nature of the supply grilles mounted directly to the main duct with no branch duct.”

Art teacher Linnus Danner has said the noise forces her to speak in a loud voice nearly all the time and makes it difficult to hear responses from students.

Jimenez said he would seek estimates on the report’s short-term recommendations right away.

The results of the report suggest that the Haines Borough may be helping in the replacement costs.

Mayor Stephanie Scott previously said the school may be on the hook for the work if the ventilation system was still functional and the noise issue was one created by the school district’s decision to move the art program into the room.

The borough is responsible for “major maintenance,” roughly defined as those upgrades and repair necessary for operating the school building.

Scott said she was optimistic the borough would find money for the project. “It’s major maintenance if (the problem) makes the building inhospitable for education purposes, but it’s all borough money. It belongs to all of us... It’s going to be all sorted out,” she said.