The 40-year-old closed-loop system that heats and cools most of the campus’ air has reached maximum capacity, and Physical Resources and the Board of Trustees are working with a national engineering firm to replace it. Don McLeod, central plant manager for Physical Resources, has participated in several meetings and said firm representatives have spent a lot of time on campus.
“It has gone past a couple of approval stages, and we have the basic design [for the new system],” McLeod said. “We can cool what we have right now, but if there is any growth, we’re maxed out.”
That growth does not include the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Physical Resources used utility management software to estimate the demand the Recreation Center would place on the system. Scott Colley, director of Physical Resources, said energy-saving construction methods will allow the system to support the facility as-is, according to computer calculations.
The current underground system circulates 95,000 gallons of water per day to cool campus, and 75,000 gallons in the fall and winter to heat it. Four 12-inch pipes and countless smaller ones are used for both heating and cooling, making it impossible to heat one building and cool another at the same time. New pipes will be added to the current loop, although in an attempt to avoid buildings, they will not follow the old loop exactly.
Colley estimated laying the pipe would take nine months, with up to five crews working independently. Replacing asphalt is less expensive than repairing landscaping, so the new loop will follow sidewalks and parking lots whenever possible.
McLeod said one of his first goals is to replace all pneumatic controls with direct digital controls, an improvement that would reduce wasteful energy consumption.
New equipment will help, but Physical Resources also wants to improve the energy efficiency of existing structures, as they did in Sikes Residence Hall.
Colley and McLeod expect the project to take five years from start to finish.