A look inside University Services: Facility Services

Plowing snow, cleaning classrooms and maintaining heat standards are just a few of the important tasks that Facilities Services performs on a day-to-day basis. As a part of MSU’s University Services, it provides vital services that work behind the scenes to ensure campus runs smoothly.

In a three part series, the Exponent will take a closer look at important components that go into making MSU a comfortable and clean environment each and every day. Housed in the Plew Building, University Services focuses on the larger scheme of delivering essential, cost-effective and professional services to MSU students, faculty and staff. It administers four departments including Campus Planning, Design and Construction, Safety and Risk Management, University Police and Facilities Services.

The tasks that Facilities Services perform each day reach across multitudes of networks. Environmental Services Manager EJ Hook noted that “we consider ourselves an unseen department; if things are working, and you (students, faculty, staff) don’t notice anything out of place as you go about your day, then we’ve done our job.”

The department employs 200 members in a variety of services, including environmental, mail and janitorial services as well as heating plant employees. Also employed by Facility Services are those who set out to snow plow all walkways for students before the first 8 a.m. class. “On a typical winter day, snow tractors are out on campus at 4 a.m. and are usually done within two hours, depending on snowfall,” Hook said.

All of the heating at MSU comes from the infamous steam tunnels and general electricity is also produced from the steam. Hook explained the financial importance of the steam tunnels: “In a volatile energy market, heating MSU entirely with the steam tunnels saves a lot of money through its production.”

The department is always looking ahead to the future needs, especially with an ever growing campus. Facility Services evaluates every system and all equipment and gives it a life cycle to determine when a new component will be needed. If a piece of equipment has a 12-year life cycle, the department will beginning saving 12 years in advance to ensure the most cost-effective purchase at the end of a life cycle.

Hook, who has worked as MSU facilities manager for five years, shared that “it is so essential to provide these services because MSU is so large and will continue to be that way. If MSU were a city, it would be the eighth largest city in Montana, due to its infrastructure and size.”

The department also works hard to make improvements keeping in mind emerging technologies and sustainable methods. Hook explained that the majority of lighting around MSU buildings is t-8 lighting, a type of fluorescent lighting that can save up to 40 percent of energy costs on average.

He noted with enthusiasm that, “We draw upon the energy of students, and put all we have into our jobs. If we can ensure that something so small as toilet paper is always refilled, and the grounds are kept clean, and if we can be ahead of the curve always, then we have done our job.”