Campus, CSU, News

How prepared is Long Beach State for future heat waves?

By Mikalya Schwartz and Xochilt Andrade

With outdated infrastructure and energy-use concerns on the rise, the university is acknowledging a need for building renovations to meet student demands of air conditioning.

Long Beach is expected to maintain in the 90s this week according to the National Weather Service.

Students protested outside the Fine Arts building for better—cooler—conditions on Wednesday, Sept. 7 when temperatures peaked above 105 degrees. A second protest is scheduled at noon on Sept. 28 located at the “GO BEACH” sign according to an Instagram post published by the La F.U.E.R.Z.A Student Association.

Most buildings on campus were built during the 1950s and 1960s and are not-withstanding of present-day extreme heat as students are left sweltering in their classes.

Students protesting lack of air conditioning outside the Fine Arts Building. Photo Credit Luke Wines
Students protest the lack of air conditioning outside the Fine Arts Building. Photo credit: Luke Wines

Beach Building Services dispatched all available AC units to affected classrooms as soon they were aware of the oncoming heat wave but due to the design of the spaces and the intensity of the heat wave, little difference was made.

“Some of the rooms are open ventilation by design due to the type of instruction,” said vice president of Beach Building Services Mark Zakhour.

And it’s clear that open ventilation is not enough.

According to Conoley, Peterson Hall 1, one of the oldest buildings on campus, is next to be razed and rebuilt as it cannot be saved.

Conoley said the cost to renovate PH1 is estimated at $171 million, referring to the 2022-2023 CSU Capital Outlay Plan.

“It would be such a waste of money at one level to air condition them as they are,” Conoley said referring to the outdated buildings. “They really need to be completely renovated.”

A photo of Peterson Hall 1 the next building that is planned to be completely rebuilt and estimated to cost around $171 million.
Peterson Hall 1 is the next building that is planned to be completely rebuilt, it is estimated to cost around $171 million. Photo credit: Xochilt Andrade

In the 2020 to 2021 fiscal year, the state allocated one-time funding of $325 million for “deferred maintenance and energy efficiency” throughout the 23 CSU campuses to support needed rebuilding and “utility infrastructure systems” according to California State University.

The CSULB campus alone would need around $300 million in funding for renovations, which includes money for new roofs and air conditioning upgrades, Conoley said in an interview.

Conoley said she and Beach Building Services would consider opening up certain campus buildings as public cooling stations.

“Right now, everybody’s attention is on air conditioning, but of course, air conditioning is kind of a disaster for energy,” Conoley said. “It’s a shame.”

According to the campus website, the campus does use sustainable energy via solar panels located in general parking lots G6, G7, G8 and employee lot E8 on campus. They provide “4.75 megawatts and supply one-third of the campus energy demands.”

The university strives to move towards a sustainable future with its Beach 2030 Initiative and owns a battery array to store energy generated from the parking lot solar panels to use during peak energy use hours. As electricity prices fluctuate throughout the day, the more energy utilized, the higher the cost. The battery helps to dampen or suppress this rate.

However, heat waves are progressively growing in intensity faster than the campus can keep up.

“I think we’re beyond peak,” Conoley said.

According to Conoley, the campus is applying for future funding to continue moving forward with sustainable building projects discussed by the President’s Commission on Sustainability to create a zero-waste campus.

“We don’t feel like we’re out of the woods yet, but we try to learn from it,” Conoley said.

To find your local cooling station please visit Ready L.A. County.

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