Construction crews are digging up sections of the Southern University campus, but it is all in the name of replacing the underground water-piping system that has had problems for years.

The roughly $10 million project taking place in segments is due for completion in July 2012, said Endas Vincent, director of Southern’s facilities planning.

“We will, hopefully, improve our energy savings and satisfy some of these complaints,” Vincent said. “We’ve had a lot of complaints about cold buildings.”

Southern Student Government Association President Demetrius Sumner said students may be surprised to see the construction when they arrive for the fall semester, but that student leadership will keep them informed.

“It’s definitely a temporary obstacle for students,” Sumner said. “But it’s one of those projects that you’re going to complain about it more if you don’t do it, so you might as well get it done now for the long term.”

Southern Chancellor James Llorens cited excessive utility costs as one of the biggest budgetary problems on campus.

Vincent said this project should result in substantial savings over the long term.

“It’s going to be an extensive project and they’re going to be disrupting the entire campus,” Vincent said of Bernhard Mechanical Contractors, the company doing the work. “But it’ll be worth it.”

Although the project is being piecemealed to avoid tearing up too much of the campus at once, Vincent did predict it will cause an “inconvenience” for football games and big events once the fall semester begins.

Vincent said the old piping system was installed in 1982 but began having issues after 10 years or so because of the “very corrosive soil” at Southern.

Problems peaked about two years ago when there were three or four waterline breaks a month, causing outages and spraying water onto parts of the campus, he said.

The funding was acquired through state construction funds, called capital outlay.

Last year, the hot-water lines were abandoned and energy-efficient boilers were installed in buildings in bundles so some boilers can serve two buildings, he said.

But, as the past school year ended, the second phase began with workers digging out the old hot-water lines and replacing them with new chilled water piping, Vincent said. This more messy second phase takes about a year.

The new chilled lines will be pre-insulated pipes with foam and plastic sleeves to prevent the same levels of corrosion, he said.

Currently, the biggest chunks of construction are behind the J.S. Clark Administration Building on the southwest corner of campus, in the middle of campus near Higgins Hall and by the Southern University Laboratory School.

The last phase will supply the northern part of campus and the Southern University Agricultural Center, Vincent said, but additional funds may be needed to finish that final phase.

Southern also will soon start installing new solar outdoor street lighting to save on utility costs, he said, courtesy of federal stimulus dollars. Such federal funds also will finance the installation of more energy-efficient LED lighting, starting in the administration building, he added.