Heating System Upgrades Draw Interest

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Officials from other New England schools tour campus to see energy improvements.

Officials from Mount Holyoke, UMass Amherst, and Williams tour the new Engineering and Computer Science Center
Officials from Mount Holyoke, UMass Amherst, and Williams tour the new Engineering and Computer Science Center mechanical room. (Photo by Robert Gill)

Dartmouth’s progress in upgrading its campus heating system is drawing interest from other New England schools looking to improve energy efficiency and sustainability.

Officials from University of Massachusetts Amherst, Williams College, and Mount Holyoke toured campus on Friday for a look at the new high-efficiency hot-water heating system, the first phase of which is now operational.

Dartmouth is transitioning over the next decade from its central heating plant and steam-heating system to a new energy-generation and distribution system that’s designed to significantly reduce and minimize the use of greenhouse gases.

A major component is converting from the use of steam heat to hot water, which improves energy efficiency and has a system that is adaptable to future technologies.

“The tour was an opportunity for our colleagues from other institutions that are planning similar conversions to see what we’ve installed and for us to share the lessons we’ve learned to date,” says Abbe Bjorklund, Dartmouth director of engineering and utilities, who organized and led the tour.

Officials on a tour get a look at the piping system outside the new Irving Institute building
Officials on the tour get a look at the underground hot-water distribution system outside the new Irving Institute building. (Photo by Robert Gill)

The visitors surveyed a variety of aspects of the hot-water conversion work, including:

  • the temporary energy transfer station in Sudikoff Hall, where steam is used to generate hot water going to the West End of campus;
  • underground hot-water distribution piping from Sudikoff to the West End;
  • high-efficiency hot-water building conversions combined with energy efficiency improvements in existing buildings (Steele Hall and Thornton Hall);
  • and new buildings designed for low-temperature hot-water and energy efficiency, such as the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society and the Engineering and Computer Science Center.

One of the energy efficient design strategies at the Irving Institute building includes an innovative natural ventilation system serving more than 80% of the structure that will minimize air conditioning by using outdoor air for cooling the building when outdoor conditions allow.

As the campus hot-water conversion is expanded, Dartmouth plans to phase out oil-fired steam systems and replace them with low-carbon systems, including geothermal heat pumps and solar thermal heating systems.

UMass officials who were on the tour said they found it “very informative” and were particularly impressed by the Steele Hall project, where the installation of heat-recovery heat pumps and improved ventilation and controls have reduced the building heating load by about 80%.

“A main concern for us as we embark on our own decarbonization journey is whether a low-temp hot water strategy would truly be successfulwith success measured by its ability to provide sufficient heating during the deeply cold winter days. Seeing how Dartmouth has implemented its strategy has put my mind at ease and gives me confidence that our approach at UMass is the right one," said Ted Mendoza, a project manager for UMass Design and Construction Management.