Pipe down

Fire sprinkler line leak causes water damage in Minard Hall

Brayden Zenker | The Spectrum
The first, second, third and fourth floors all experienced water damage

On Jan. 17, a sprinkler head located on the fourth floor in Minard Hall malfunctioned resulting in water damage to the southeast corner of the building.

The first, second, third and fourth floors of Minard Hall were damaged from the water. No classrooms were affected by any water damage as the damage was isolated to only faculty and staff offices.

It is unknown how exactly the malfunction occurred, but it is speculated to have been caused by a sprinkler line freezing. The ice then started to melt and expand in the pipes causing a sprinkler head to break off and water was then released.

This release of water caused the system to lose pressure. The loss in pressure, which pumped more water through the pipes, also engaged the fire alarms.

North Dakota State University Facilities Management Director, Michael Ellingson, is responsible for all campus infrastructure. Ellingson has been in the position since 2010.

“Water takes the path of least resistance,” Ellingson said. “So, any place it can find its route it will.”

According to Ellingson, the event was a “freak deal.” There were factors regarding the location of the leak that decreased the chances of the pipes freezing.

“[The leak] was on the south side of the building,” Ellingson said. “A lot of times the south side of the building gets sunlight and gets heated up more. It was in a dormer area and above a ceiling. That’s why we haven’t 100 percent pinpointed exactly why did it happen.”

“Water takes the path of least resistance. So any place it can find its route it will.”

NDSU Facilities Management Director Michael Ellingson

The third floor of the building was the most affected by water damages. The area affected contains offices for staff and faculty of the English Department.

“Whenever we have a water situation like this, we get the water turned off to understand what transpired,” Ellingson said. “Eventually they were able to cap [the sprinkler head] and get the system reenergized so that if a fire did happen the sprinkler system would work somewhere else.”

An outside contractor was hired to help manage the excess water and dry out the carpets and walls. Holes are being cut in the drywall to dry out insulation in the walls, to prevent mold from growing. Some interior walls in this area will have insulation to help with soundproofing.

“I couldn’t tell you how many gallons a minute but we’re talking about a lot of gallons per minute and it went on for quite some time,” Ellingson said. 

Minard Hall was renovated starting in the spring of 2009 and finished before the fall semester of 2013.

“That area has been operating for the last seven to eight years without any problems,” Ellingson said. “When something like this happens and you’ve had years and years without it happening, I don’t know what we could do differently. If this was a fifty-year-old building maybe we would need to change the piping because the piping is starting to get bad, but it’s a fairly new area.”

An insurance claim was filled by NDSU and repairs are projected to take around one to two months. Faculty and staff whose offices were affected are currently either sharing offices or using temporary storage as offices. After repairs are finished, other tests will be done to further investigate the leak.

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