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Manchester University heats three large buildings with less energy than it once took to heat just one.
Rather than choosing a traditional stand-alone boiler and cooling system when it was renovating the former Holl-Kitner Hall into the state-of-the-art Academic Center, the University worked with an Indianapolis firm to connect its heating and cooling systems with nearby buildings.
That innovative approach is featured this month in the journal of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
“As much as we can, we’re trying to get away from the conventional steam system,” said Gary Heckman, MU systems supervisor. He was co-author of the ASHRAE technical feature with Tom Durkin, principal mechanical engineer at Durkin & Villalta Partners Engineering in Indianapolis.
The synergistic system at the North Manchester campus is part of an energy-efficient, low-temperature three-phase heating plan that recovers heat (and provide cooling at the same time) before any additional energy is expended or gas burned. Large buildings often need both heating and cooling all year, and MU’s monitoring system has one “magic box” that controls both for several buildings, Heckman said.
The University had worked with Durkin’s firm several times before its two-pipe system was used for this project and Heckman had spent a three-week internship with the company – leading to a collaboration that linked the heating and cooling systems for the Academic Center, Science Center and Cordier Auditorium.
The University had considered the stand-alone option for the Academic Center but went with the multi-building approach because it promised lower heating costs and a reduced carbon footprint – high priorities in MU’s Green Campus Initiative.
“The results speak for themselves,” Durkin said, adding that it took forward-thinking people on both sides of the equation to make this happen. “In my opinion, this is something to be proud of.”
Durkin has seen something like this done only one other time. He credited Heckman and Chris Garber, MU associate vice president for financial affairs and director of operations, for working with the architect to bring him in on this project.
“There were a set of circumstances that made it a perfect solution at Manchester,” he said.
To connect the buildings, new hot-water mains were run the through the existing tunnel system. The dedicated heat-recovery chiller and a new boiler housed in the Science Center could serve several buildings. New variable-speed hot-water pumps keep the system running efficiently. Additional savings were garnered, Heckman said, when 500 feet of 6-inch steam piping already in the tunnels was moved and repurposed into heating-water piping.
The ASHRAE article said the synergistic approach paid off with an initial net savings of $83,900 over the single-building plan.
The three buildings are now being heated with 41 percent of the natural gas previously used to heat just the Science Center. That alone, the ASHRE article said, translates into a savings of nearly $36,000 a year using 2010 gas rates.
Heckman said the “boring beige box” that runs the system might not be sexy, but it’s efficient. Some may wonder why they haven’t seen solar panels and turbines at Manchester, but he said this system is paying for itself much faster than either of those still-expensive alternatives would.
Heckman is a Manchester graduate and lives in North Manchester.