1516 Showers

A shower trailer sits outside of Building 1516 due to hot water shortages on Jan. 28, 2020, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Kathryn Skeean)

What would you do for a hot shower?

Walk to the nearby gym? Opt for a hotel stay? Wait with one hand testing the water and hope for the best?

Those are the questions residents of Building 1516 have asked themselves almost all of January while hoping for warmer waters to spurt through their showerheads. University Housing could only offer temporary reliefs while maintenance struggled to solve the problem.

Hot water issues in the East Campus dorm, which is one of the newest on campus, began when students came back from winter break and continued until Jan. 24.

“I understand that — especially in cold weather — not having a hot shower in your home is not only physically, but also emotionally taxing,” said Linda Kasper, executive director of University Housing, in an email sent to residents on Jan. 27. “Such a long repair time on a critical system is not what you expect from us and certainly not what we expect of ourselves.”

Housing will credit Building 1516 residents $100 to their student accounts “in appreciation” of their patience with the issue, Kasper said in the Jan. 27 email. With 550 residents in the dorm, this equates to $55,000 from the university to students, which does not include the cost of the repairs, hotel stays or portable showers.

Building 1516 was built in 2010 and is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold-certified residence hall on campus, meaning it meets certain standards to be considered a sustainable building.

Students pay between about $3,600-3,900 per semester to live in Building 1516, according to Housing rates, which is on par with other dorms in East Campus. On-campus housing prices top out at $4,095 per semester for certain rooms in East Campus Village.

Last resort solutions

The same day the problem was solved, Housing brought in a temporary shower trailer, which is in the process of being removed, a University of Georgia spokesperson said in an email. It was set up on the dorm’s loading dock, which students could reach from the basement. The heated shower trailer had eight showers and dressing areas as well as sinks, according to a Jan. 24 email sent to residents.

However, resident Bowen Powers said this effort was a little late to the draw.

“I appreciated them doing that,” the junior biology major said. “It just would’ve been better if they had done it earlier.”

Powers didn’t get consistent hot water in his shower the entire three weeks. If he showered at odd times, he said the water was sometimes lukewarm.

Housing fixed hot water in about 30% of the dorms on Jan. 23, which they defined as above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. They prioritized rooms that had water temperatures below 90 degrees, according to an email.

Housing also offered some residents a hotel stay at the Courtyard by Marriott while maintenance tried to fix the problem. All rooms were paid for by the university, and a shuttle was provided for students to the hotel for the first night of the stay.

Thirty-nine students took advantage of UGA’s offer to pay for two nights of a hotel, while two other students spent three nights in a hotel, UGA spokesperson Stan Jackson said in an email.

Housing also posed the option that students could go to the locker rooms in the Ramsey Student Center when the gym is open 6 a.m.-11 p.m. to shower, which is less than a five minute walk from the dorm.

UGA did not respond to questions concerning the total accrued cost to the university or the cause of the problem.

Desiree’ Johnson, the residence hall director for Building 1516, notified students before they returned from winter break about possible issues. Maintenance had drained the hot and cold water systems in order to modify the hot water circulating loop.

Before resorting to portable showers and hotel stays, Housing recommended students turn on the water in the sink 10 minutes before showering and leave the shower on for several minutes before getting in.

“I feel bad about how much water we’re wasting to just get hot showers,” Powers said about Housing’s initial suggestion.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying that the problem continued. Maintenance entered every room multiple times and turned the water off for eight hours at one point while fielding continuous work orders from students.

In the Jan. 27 emailed update, University Housing requested residents contact the dorm’s 24-hour desk if the problem continues. The department plans to contract a plumbing engineer to make sure it is permanently fixed.

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