District Energy / Fourth Quarter 2018 21 © 2018 International District Energy Association. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
a natural disaster. By developing contingency plans, institutions like DU can be
equipped to respond immediately to such
emergencies and minimize their impact.
AGING INFRASTRUCTURE EXPOSES
At DU, following the three system
failures in rapid sequence, the university
leadership had a more realistic view of
the campus’s vulnerabilities. The histori-
cal legacy of the university was actually
at the heart of the problem. Many build-
ings on this beautiful 125-acre campus in
the heart of downtown Denver date from
before 1900. More than 70 percent of the
buildings on campus have a renovation
age that is 25 years or older. In addition,
just 21 of the 88 buildings on campus
are connected to a central utility plant
providing them with either chilled water
or steam, or both. (The plant supplies
more than 1 million sq ft in 20 buildings
with up to 1,700 tons of cooling capac-
ity, produced by three electric chillers;
and it serves 14 buildings totaling nearly
908,000 sq ft with a total of 41,400 lb/hr
of steam capacity from three natural gas-
fired boilers.) The majority of DU build-
ings operate on standalone heating and
cooling systems and individual electric
meters. Given the age of many of the
buildings and the large number of build-
ings on their own standalone systems, it
is only a matter of time before another
failure hits the campus.
Like DU, many college campuses are
a unique blend of tradition and history
combined with innovation, groundbreaking research, scholarship and forward-thinking ideas. These campuses often
serve as a home away from home for students as well as a cherished “
homecoming” destination for alumni and others
who have deep emotional ties to these
institutions. Faculty, staff and senior
administration all function as a team sharing a common mission as a teaching and
support community for the benefit of past
and present generations.
This combination of mission, purpose
and legacy often leaves little room for
attention to the practical matters of physically operating a large interconnected
campus of buildings with complex supporting infrastructure. This eclectic mix of
needs, ideas, facilities and functions makes
college campuses particularly vulnerable
as infrastructure begins to age. A frozen
pipe could lead to major flood damage in
a well-traveled lecture hall, while years of
priceless lab research could also be lost
over a simple power outage.
THEIR ECLECTIC MIX OF NEEDS, IDEAS,
FACILITIES AND FUNCTIONS MAKES COLLEGE
CAMPUSES PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE AS
INFRASTRUCTURE BEGINS TO AGE.
Colleges and universities located on
mature campuses often are served by a mix
of heating, cooling and electrical systems.
Though many were state-of-the-art for their
day, they usually have specific and unique
requirements and vulnerabilities.
It goes without saying that as legacy
infrastructure nears the end of its useful life, college and university campuses
FIGURE 1. Campus infrastructure failures, University of Denver.
Source: University of Denver.
January 2017, power outage
MARY REED HALL
February 2017, condensate
distribution line failure
COLORADO WOMEN’S COLLEGE
NAGEL ART STUDIOS
SCHWAYDER ART BUILDING
October 2016, steam distribution