If you have been by Scott Plaza during the last month or two, you might be wondering why the sidewalks were dug up in several places. The construction, scheduled for completion by mid-March, is part of an effort by the Facilities Services Department to place two new chiller units, devices that cool the water used in the air conditioning process, in the Scott Building basement. These units will also cool the Orlowitz and Martin Buildings through newly installed underground pipes. The Scott chiller project is part of a broader plan to introduce common chiller units campuswide.
(John Mahony, PE, Project Manager, Department of Facilities Design and Construction (left), and Randolph L. Haines, CPE, Manager, Facilities Services Department, review plans for installing the two new chiller units in the Scott Building basement as contractors prepare the units for operation. / Robert Neroni Photography)
The two new Scott chillers are larger, more energy-efficient units than the five, 20-plus-year-old units they replace. In addition, the new units use CFC-free refrigerant which means they do not produce elements harmful to the ozone layer. This enables the University to meet the Clean Air Amendment of 1996 requirements and avoid problems of rising costs due to limited availability of CFC-refrigerant, which is required by older chiller units and is no longer produced.
The possibility of grouping buildings using common chiller units was first explored last spring when the Bluemle Life Sciences Building chiller unit was modified to serve the Barringer Building. The project's success spurred plans to group other campus buildings.
"The Department looked at a variety of options including one large chilled water plant for the entire campus and upgrading or replacing one chiller at a time. A final plan was chosen based on age of all existing equipment, cost of implementation and operation," explained Randolph L. Haines, CPE, Manager, Facilities Services Department, who helped develop the project. "A regional approach consisting of grouped buildings best met our goals."
The University and Hospital plans are still being developed to group the College and Curtis Buildings, and the Pavilion, Thompson, Main and Gibbon Buildings to operate from common chiller units. Like the Scott chiller project, these future projects will occur at times when existing equipment is beyond its useful life. This provides for maximum cost savings by replacing only units that have been completely depreciated, and providing cooling services for the same amount of space from fewer, more efficient chiller units. The savings from this project will pay for itself in two-and-a-half years, yet the equipment has a 20-year lifecycle.