Spotlight Projects

  • Shop Spotlight: Steam Distribution

    Aug 04, 2020
    The Steam Distribution operators may be one of the most unique jobs on campus with responsibilities that deserve more recognition.Steam tunnels
    Despite what their name suggests, they deal with more than just hot water vapor.
    The team’s primary objectives each day are to provide a safe and comfortable work environment for research, classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories, and spaces for students to learn and staff to work. Operators provide service delivery in two main areas, mechanical and utility systems. Mechanical systems include components with moving parts; utility systems involve steam, natural gas, water, and electrical components.
    As the “eyes and ears of campus,” Steam Distribution checks on all alarms after normal working hours and respond to facility systems 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
    “Our team of operators are often at work when most people are in bed asleep,” said Steam Distribution foreperson Bill Conner. “They are at work during weekends, evenings, night shifts, and holidays.”
    “This team is not just a set of generalists,” said Dave Boehm, associate director for Operations, Maintenance, & Alterations, Building Maintenance. “They are highly-skilled operational individuals who may be better described as ‘field operators’ for utilities, infrastructure, and all buildings on campus. They are some of the most experienced and knowledgeable individuals you will ever meet when it comes to operating the campus, essentially a small city, where it involves utility distribution, gas pipeline operations, building operations, and system operations.
    “Operators can address multiple issues and then bring in helpful team members from other shops to further repair the most difficult tasks.Steam blow
    “Basically, if it is any component, system, or sub-assembly, they know what it should be doing and how to deal with it,” Boehm said.
    Conner is proud of his team and looks forward with confidence.
    “Every day, we challenge ourselves to make it a better day than the one before,” Conner said. “We want to ensure the campus is happy over and over again. Whatever it is, we are up for it. We are always trying to make sure campus functioning safely. We’ve got to keep it going.”
    Full steam ahead!
  • Chilled at Chalmers

    May 21, 2020

    Facilities & Services has continued to perform essential work through the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Recently, a team from F&S collaborated with the Mutimodal Corridor Enhancement (MCORE) Project crews to complete two infrastructure improvements at the same time.

    F&S Utilities Distribution recently performed this quick response chilled water piping project on Chalmers Street between Sixth Street and Wright Street. When MCORE Project 4 planned to replace the street surface and sidewalks in this area, it was identified that the 14” underground chilled water supply and return piping beneath this area had recently failed a “hydro” test, a controlled way to discover what is in need of repair. This work would include 200-foot lengths of 14” chilled water supply and return piping (400 total feet). Addressing the issue now would help to steward university resources by eliminating the need to tear out and redo the recently done street and sidewalks in the future  

    Management Engineer, Robbie Bauer, quickly coordinated with F&S Transportation Demand Coordinator, Stacey DeLorenzo and MCORE Project Manager Lou Braghini. A project schedule accounted for time to perform the chilled water piping work without adversely impacting the MCORE Project timeline. This process even required a formal executive approval to classify this project as essential.

    In a less than one-month time period, the project was identified, planned, scheduled, authorized, and constructed.

  • UI Ride Buses Bring Wi-Fi to Local Neighborhoods in Need

    Apr 23, 2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives.

    For most families with school-aged children it meant a rapid transition to remote/eLearning and the need for enhanced internet access, but this resource isn’t always readily available.

    In Champaign-Urbana, the university was able to help fill this gap when the UI Ride shuttle service between the Urbana and Chicago campuses was temporarily suspended due to the virus outbreak. Realizing the Wi-Fi-enabled vehicles were available to provide a new service during this period, F&S partnered with Technology Services and the University of Illinois System to take UI Ride vehicle to neighborhoods in need of internet access; the free service will run through at least May 1 (EDIT: through at least May 29).Mohamed_Pete_Denver_Ryan

    Once in a neighborhood, the vehicles park in highly visible spots. Community members can easily connect to the university’s mobile network by coming within 60-foot of the shuttle. This large Wi-Fi zone allows people to remain in nearby cars or to set up in adjacent spaces, so they can access the network while still obeying social distancing techniques to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

    Said Pete Varney, associate director of Operations, Maintenance & Alterations, Transportation & Automotive Services, “We are committed to supporting our entire community as we navigate through these extraordinary times. If this effort to provide free, reliable, and secure internet helps children and their parents, it will be worth it.”

    The shuttle locations focuses on areas identified by Champaign Unit 4 School District, Urbana School District #116, and community organizations, where digital access may be unavailable or limited for students needing to complete e-learning coursework. The service also provides greater opportunities for families to perform essential online activities as necessary.

    Presently, the vehicles go to Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park, Douglas Community Center, Ivanhoe Estates, Northwood Estates, and Woodland Acres.

     “I am thankful that both the university and F&S have a strong desire to help the community,” said Brad Trankina, director of Information Technology Services. “This project went from an idea to a service actively helping the community in less than a week, thanks to many across the university joining the effort.”

    Please refer to the updated shuttle schedule here for current locations and times: