University of Oregon: Central Heat and Power Plant
Existing building retrofit, new construction; University of Oregon: Central Heat and Power Plant; Wood Harbinger
Engineering firm: Wood Harbinger
2013 MEP Giants rank: 67
Project: University of Oregon: Central Heat and Power Plant
Address: Eugene, Ore., United States
Building type: School (college, university)
Project type: Other
Engineering services: Automation & Controls, Code Compliance, Electrical/Power, Fire & Life Safety, HVAC, Lighting
Project timeline: August 2008 to October 2012
Engineering services budget: $300,000
MEP budget: $1.9 million
One of the initial challenges of this project came from the fact that the university had a vague notion of what it wanted to achieve; all it knew was that its systems for chilled water, power, and steam were far under capacity for its needs. After some time, Wood Harbinger discovered the university's true goals of a central power station comprised of a new chilled water plant and campus distribution system that met current capacity needs and accounted for the university's growth by lasting 40 years. On top of all that, the new system had to be incredibly energy efficient. It not only had to meet the user demand of the campus, but also do it in a way that would significantly reduce the university’s carbon footprint. All this led to additional issues of funding; since the university hadn't established the initial goals, the project ballooned as it learned what was needed, as did the budget.
Due to the nature of the original 1949/1964 steam plant building layout and structure, additional challenges arose with the construction and installation of the cogeneration system. The first was limited space. The new system, which needed to provide twice the capacity along with a two-story office complex, had to fit within the original steam plant structure. The building also had hollow floors, making it impossible to surround the new steam-turbine generator with concrete slabs to reduce external vibrations. Additionally, Wood Harbinger was faced with the challenge of disrupting campus life as little as possible throughout the changes, construction, installation, and beyond.
To address the lack of project scope, the firm’s engineers spent several design sessions meeting with the university and all of the key stakeholders of the project. The engineering team listened and discussed each concern to gain a clear understanding of the university's needs and expectations.
After a detailed study and investigation, the team developed the current cogeneration system to increase steam supply throughout the campus. Wood Harbinger was able to increase the steam volume by utilizing an existing 12-in. 20 psi steam header, increasing the distribution pressure to 60 psi, and by changing the pressure regulators at each of the over 100 buildings—resulting in a significant increase in capacity. By reusing the existing infrastructure, the firm saved the university about $2 million. These money-saving solutions helped to resolve the budget issues, resulting in the overall project remaining within the university's original proposed budget. This overall system was also able to lower the boiler operating pressure from 225 psi to 150 psi, which saved an abundant amount of energy. By implementing a system that would adjust for various load sizes, scaling up or down incrementally, the university saved more. The engineers designed the system to handle much larger loads as the university grows. The steam turbine in the system, however, needed to be set on a solid concrete foundation to isolate it from vibrations. When the engineering team discovered the hollow floors of the building, it quickly came up with an innovative solution. The engineers calculated that they could use spring-mounted isolators on the steam-turbine generator and associated piping to reduce the vibrations. The vendor limits vibrations on this machine to 1.44 mils peak to peak; Wood Harbinger’s isolation design achieved a vibration level of only .30 mils peak to peak.
Another innovative feature of this project is the use of a bar-code system. A bar code is attached to every piece of equipment and valve, and a simple scan delivers maintenance history, specifications, and function. This helps with maintenance, repairs, and replacement of components. To avoid campus disruption, engineers created a phasing plan that allowed for 95% of the equipment to be installed while keeping the campus functional. To maintain the system, the electrical engineers designed 89 switching configurations that eliminated power outages on the campus. They provided precise mathematical modeling of the entire system. This required a transient analysis, or swing-curve analysis, to predict the performance of each component so that specific settings of the protective relays and programming of the sequence of operations could be established.
Overall, the engineering team met the space and energy efficiency needs of the university. The entire system exceeded the required state energy code by 18%, garnered a $900,000 rebate from the local utility, and reduced the university's carbon footprint by 7%.
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