Our Departments


Skilled Trades: Jerry Van Couwenberghe, Manager, Plant Operations

Plant Operations is responsible for the Physical Plant assets and Building Systems at the University of Michigan – Dearborn.  Plant Operations installs, maintains, operates, and repairs Physical Plant assets.  These assets include underground utilities such as water, sewer, natural gas, steam, and electricity.  In addition, Plant Operations  maintains, operates, and repairs Building Systems which include building heating and cooling systems, building plumbing and sewer systems, and building hot water systems.   Plant Operations ensures elevators, fire detection systems, and fire pump systems are properly maintained.  The Manager of Plant Operations maintains a current list of all equipment on campus that requires regular and periodic maintenance.  


The following shops are part of Plant Operations:

Electrical Shop:  The campus electricians operate and maintain building fire alarm systems, lab gas detection systems, on site permanent and portable electrical generators, and exterior and interior lighting systems.  Campus electricians also operate and maintain building electrical substations, switchgear, power panels, electrical outlets, wiring, and light switches.  In addition, the electricians maintain the campus high voltage electrical distribution system, campus security systems, and assist all trades with electrical troubleshooting, maintenance, repair, and installation of electrical consuming equipment.


Plumbing and Steamfitting Shop:  The Plumbing and Steamfitting Shop installs, repairs, and maintains hot and cold water piping systems, high purity water systems, natural and lab gas systems, water conditioning, steam piping, hot and cold water pumping systems, and pipe system filters.  The campus Plumbing Shop installs and repairs all types of sewer piping, including cast iron, glass, acid resistant, PVC and CPVC, etc.  The Plumbing Shop also maintains, installs, and repairs fixtures, water closets, sinks, faucets, water coolers, back flow prevention devices, underground sewer systems, sewage pumping stations, and assists all trades when needed.  The campus Steamfitting Shop maintains and repairs steam distribution piping, including condensate pumps and traps.  The Steamfitter Shop also repairs and maintains hot water heating distribution piping, valves, strainers, pumps, seals, gaskets, flanges, and hot water heating converters.


Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning Shop (“HVAC”):  This shop consists of four (4) specialists who operate, maintain, and repair the following:

  • Rooftop heating and cooling units of all types
  • Building air distributions systems
  • Large and small chilled water cooling and pumping systems
  • Small air conditioning systems
  • Critical air conditioning systems
  • Refrigerant recovery, replacement, and monitoring
  • Compressed air systems
  • Controlled environment chambers
  • Ice Arena ice production equipment
  • Building electrical, pneumatic and digital control systems
  • Cooling tower start up, shut down and maintenance
  • Humidification and dehumidification systems
  • Walk in coolers and freezers


Boiler and Refrigeration Operations: Gary Taylor, Associate Director, Plant Operations

Boiler and Refrigeration Operating Engineers are responsible for the continuous operation of the Central Steam Heating Plant.  The Central Steam Heating Plant provides steam to heat ten (10) buildings on campus.  This steam is used directly in air handling systems to provide heat, to convert cold water into hot water for building heating, and  a refrigeration cycle to provide cooling for the Mardigian Library.

In addition to the Central Steam Plant, Boiler and Refrigeration Operators work around the clock 365 days per year to operate other building systems.  Operators monitor all building mechanical spaces three (3) times per day, or once per shift.  Operators are first responders after hours for everything from tripped circuit breakers to leaks inside or outside of buildings.  Boiler and Refrigeration Operators monitor individual building chillers, roof top units, air handlers, boilers, and hot water heaters.  They also inspect fire suppression system valves and respond along with Campus Police to fire alarms and other building problems after hours.  Boiler and Refrigeration Operators also schedule building heating and cooling systems for after hours and special events.  All operators are fully licensed by the City of Dearborn or the City of Detroit as Boiler and Refrigeration Operators. 


Landscape & Grounds Services: Keith Sudak, Manager

The University of Michigan-Dearborn campus is comprised of 210 acres.  The Grounds Crew maintains 56 acres of land, 2.9 miles of roads, 17.5 acres of parking lots, 5.2 miles of sidewalks, and a 264,678 square foot parking structure.  The Fleet Department maintains 12 off road machines, 43 power tools, and 43 road vehicles.



Turf & Irrigation:  The Grounds Crew maintains 56 acres of turf on campus, including fertilization, aeration, and disease prevention and treatment.  The Grounds Crew maintains the university lawns at a taller height to reduce weeds and irrigation needs.  Lawn clippings and leaves are mulched to provide additional fertilizer.  Yard waste is composted whenever possible.  Soil testing is done annually to determine the needed fertilization requirements.  Irrigation is monitored by a weather system that uses current weather conditions and plant requirements to determine the amount of water used.  The irrigation system includes a remote weather station and remote rain gauges allow the system to adjust for wind, rain, and evaporation rates to achieve the most cost effective irrigation strategy.  The Grounds staff is also certified in Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  This training reduces the amount of pesticides used to control pests.


Tree and Shrub Management:  The Grounds Crew manages the wide variety of trees and shrubs on campus and treats for diseases and insect infestations.  Existing plantings are maintained through scouting, pruning, trimming, fertilizing and sanitation.  Trees are only chemically treated when other means are unsuccessful.  New plants on campus are chosen by considering disease resistance, maintenance requirements, and environmental requirements.


Ornamental Plantings:  The Grounds Crew employs a master gardener who is responsible for maintaining and planting a variety of flowers and flower beds on campus.  The wide variety of perennial and annual plants add beauty to the campus grounds.


Animal Control: Problematic migratory geese are naturally and humanely controlled in pedestrian areas with the use of herding dogs and MDNR permitted nest destruction.



Parking Lots, Roads and Sidewalks:   The Grounds Crew maintains, repairs, and replaces all parking lots, roads, sidewalks, curbs, and gutters on campus.  The striping of lots and roadways and the sweeping of roads are also managed by the Grounds Crew.  Each year, a significant amount of repair and replacement is coordinated and managed by our Grounds Manager.  In addition to replacement of asphalt and concrete, the Grounds Crew fills cracks in parking lots and pavement and levels walkways that have settled or heaved.  The Grounds Crew is also responsible for the upkeep of all campus parking signs, directional signs, and traffic striping.


Waste Management:  The Grounds Crew manages and coordinates the removal and collection of bulk trash and recycling containers on campus.  Parking lots, sidewalks, and the landscape are kept free of litter and debris.  Trash containers are conveniently placed to service campus visitors.  Waste oil, batteries, scrap metal, and tires are recycled. 


Event Support:  The Grounds Crew provides trash containers, tents, chairs, and additional setup items as needed in support of campus events.


Winter Maintenance:  The Grounds Crew is responsible for clearing roads, parking lots, and sidewalks of snow and ice.  They use large, medium, and small snow plows, sidewalk brushes, and salt and brine for deicing.  The department is also developing a salt reduction program by using liquid De-Icer.  Currently, a large salt storage barn and a brine solution tank pumping station are located at or near the Grounds Building. The Grounds Crew is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the winter months.



Vehicle Maintenance:  The Fleet Crew repairs and maintains all university owned vehicles and equipment.  Vehicles receive routine maintenance such as oil and filter changes, certain part repairs, tune-ups, tire changes, etc.  In addition, the Fleet Crew also maintains the fleet pg mowers, weed whips, blowers, plow trucks, and accessories.  It also provides the biodiesel and 10% ethanol fuel to run them.  Shop chemicals used to service the vehicles are environmentally friendly and biodegradable.