February 1, 2024

Spring Semester Plans for Weather Events

Erik Thompson

Goucher Parents, Families, and Friends,

My name is Erik Thompson, and I am your vice president for campus operations. My team and I work to provide Goucher’s campus support services, which includes, among others, departments such as Campus Safety, Events & Conference Services, and Facilities Management Services (FMS). We are excited to start the spring semester; this time of year brings the opportunity for new beginnings and the chance to improve upon past efforts. As we start planning to push aside wintry weather and soon say goodbye to snow and ice—I stopped writing for a moment to cross my fingers and hope we can say goodbye to snow and ice—we wanted to let you know about the steps we have taken and the efforts we are planning to help make students’ time on campus satisfying, safe, and successful.

While I am sure we all hope to get through the next two months without any more snow, we must prepare for what winter may still have to offer. Our team has always monitored local forecasts to ensure we are prepared for approaching weather events. As we can all attest, predicting the weather is not an exact science. To help ensure we can best prepare and respond to snow, heavy rain, high winds, and other weather events, we have enlisted the services of a meteorological consulting firm. Municipalities, private businesses, and public schools have started using these companies to help understand conditions associated with pending weather events. These firms use modern technology to provide location-specific weather reports that were almost impossible a few years ago. Some might consider the use of a weather consultant to be overly cautious—we see it as an additional tool to help safeguard the Goucher community. This level of diligence has been taken to ensure the college makes appropriate decisions when planning both preparation and response activities. Emerging technology helps us ensure our students are kept safe in a weather emergency. Having detailed information about the weather also helps our FMS team appropriately adjust heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to account for drastic changes in outdoor temperatures.

As we continue to maintain and operate the campus’ heating systems, we are already preparing for the switch to the campus cooling system. The annual deactivation of heated air and activation of the campus-wide air conditioning system typically takes a week to complete. However, this is often after months of testing, maintenance, and repairs have been completed by the dedicated members of the FMS team. Unlike most residential HVAC systems, a commercial system like ours is unable to run heating and cooling equipment at the same time. This is the reason for our annual switch between heating and cooling operations. With more than 1 million square feet of space spread out over 50 buildings, there was a time when a separate heating and cooling HVAC system like ours was considered state-of-the-art. Like the conscientious choice made to use innovative technology to help prepare for changes in the weather, Goucher is working to change how we heat and cool the campus.

Upgrading our HVAC system would allow Goucher to respond to temperature changes more nimbly. While being able to provide more comfortable spaces for our students is a driving factor for investigating these opportunities, modernizing our HVAC systems could also have substantial sustainability benefits. The International Energy Agency estimates the use of inefficient air conditioning systems could account for as much as 20% of a building’s electrical consumption and as much as 10% of electrical consumption globally. Additionally, Goucher is one of the private higher education institutions in Maryland that has agreed to adopt the state’s de-carbonization plan. The plan includes reducing our carbon footprint by agreed-upon milestones. Meeting these milestones will not only support the state’s initiatives but will also help Goucher maintain its position as a sustainability leader in the higher education community. The Office of Campus Operations considers being a good steward of our resources an essential responsibility.

Finding a better way to prepare for and respond to weather events and improving our ability to heat and cool the campus are good initiatives for this time of year. After all, spring is a time for new beginnings and improving upon past efforts. I hope this information has helped shed light on our current efforts and plans for the future. I look forward to providing you with updates and more information on our efforts to better serve our students.


Erik Thompson
Vice President for Campus Operations