Church Street

by Heather Fors

While the small math department office space was wonderfully cool, once John Hall stepped into the corridors of Vincent Hall last summer he became engulfed in a haze of humidity lingering in the hot, sticky heat.
As part of the campus-wide renovations, the University is constructing a centralized chilled water plant behind the Mechanical Engineering building to supply Church Street buildings with centralized air conditioning.
Currently, many buildings are plagued with inefficient air conditioning systems. Some are cooled only by individual window units, while others have smaller-scaled chilled water plants.
Currently, only about 60 percent of the space in campus buildings is air conditioned. Plans to bring a cool breeze to all campus structures are already in effect on the West Bank, giving almost all the edifices cool air.
When complete, the chilled water plant behind the Mechanical Engineering building will serve structures along Church Street such as Ford, Vincent and Murphy halls, Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering buildings and others.
While most buildings along Church Street will have access to the plant, many need to be renovated first to accommodate the proper equipment and pipes.
The $5.4 million project got $1.9 million from general legislative appropriations, $1.4 million specifically from Ford and Murphy halls renovation budgets and $2.1 million from Facilities Management resources.
Every year the University spends $45 million to $50 million on heat and utilities, but with the more efficient cooling system it will save energy and dollars.
“It’s money that doesn’t have to be spent on building operations and can go into academic programs,” said Eric Kruse, interim vice president of Facilities Management.
Chilled water plants are like large-scale central air conditioning units that serve an entire building, rather than just one room at a time.
Not only do these cooling facilities service a larger area, they also are more energy efficient than if the buildings each had their own.
Hall, a teaching specialist in the math department, said it would be a great improvement in the building, especially in the classrooms where there is no air conditioning. He said having a regulated temperature throughout the building would be a better environment for teaching.
The cooling system is scheduled to be built under the parking lot behind the Mechanical Engineering building once the building’s renovations are complete. The exact time frame is still undetermined.
The underground facility for Church Street is planned to accommodate three 1,000-ton chillers, as well as some Facilities Management offices.
Initially, only one unit will be installed. Once more buildings are renovated, the other two will be added.
Officials can’t speculate when the two will be added. But when the time comes, the parking lot will be torn up again and the roof of the underground facility will be taken off. The roof of the area will be built so it can be removed easily.
Officials said tearing up the parking lot won’t be a regular event. And they don’t know how much doing so will cost.
By centralizing the locations and using fewer machines, maintenance and upkeep becomes a lot easier, said Mike Nagel, assistant director of the University’s energy management department.
A similar chilled water plant that services Northrop Auditorium was built two years ago. After renovations, the plant will service several nearby buildings such as Morrill, Johnson and Nicholson halls.