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By Eric Weld   Date: 1/26/09

Field House cozier in temperature, if not mood

For some, it’s been a cozy annual Smith tradition. Smith faculty and staff members gather in mid-winter in the field house on the snow-covered athletic field and share time together around a roaring flame in the building’s fireplace.

“I have held my annual holiday party for my staff in the field house every December because of the wonderful stone fireplace there,” said Maureen Mahoney, dean of the college. “The room is rustic, with a mountain cabin feel—probably the only such place on the Smith campus.”

Thermal photographs of the field house show hot (orange and red) and cool (blue) areas.

Warm windows at the front of the building were high heat-loss areas.

The fireplace in the building's great room is solid blue, indicating cool temperatures. The floor is warm.

But following an energy efficiency examination, Todd Holland, the Five College energy manager, confirmed what he suspected: the field house—and its fireplace in particular—has been a drafty, leaky energy sapper on an inordinate level for a long time.

The fireplace flue has had to be left open throughout the winter to avoid dangerous situations when revelers had previously kindled fires without opening it, Holland said.

In addition, the building’s main room has been kept heated at about 80 degrees, even as expensive oil heat escaped through the outdated, single-pane windows and a non-insulated crawl space.

All that lost heat added up, noted Holland. The 3,300-square-foot building, which is used only sporadically, cost more than $12,000 a year in utilities, including 2,700 gallons of oil, the equivalent of nearly three and a half average homes.

As a result of the high cost and wasteful setup, the field house fireplace flue was permanently closed this January, and roaring blazes are no longer an option. Also, the building was treated to several energy efficient measures, such as tamper-proof thermostats, wall insulation, a heat barrier for the crawl space, and new sealing around doors and windows. An empty refrigerator was shut off, as was an ice machine for athletic trainers, though only during the off-season.

“I fully appreciate the need to make Smith more energy efficient, so I support the changes that will be made in the field house,” commented Mahoney. “But the room will not be the same without the fireplace.”



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