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$77M to chill facilities more efficiently

Courtesy of the OSU Board of Trustees

Beginning in July, medical center facilities will have a new way of getting air-conditioned, by means of a new $77.3 million plant on the corner of Cannon Drive and Herrick Drive.

The South Campus Central Chilled Water Plant will supply chilled water to the projects and facilities on south campus, including those that are part of the Medical Center Expansion, according to Board of Trustees documents.

“This is a university-funded project, which is going to be the facility that will provide the air conditioning for not only the new hospital building but all the medical center buildings,” said Mary Lynn Readey, associate vice president of Facilities Operations and Development.

The facility, which is an Ohio Construction Reform pilot design-assist project, will have a total chilled water capacity of 17,500 tons and the ability to expand to an additional 12,500 tons, according to documents.

“Every building that has air conditioning has a chiller in it. Right now the chillers are mostly pieces of equipment that are inside a single building,” Readey said. “The idea behind the chiller plant is to bring a whole bunch of pieces of equipment into a single, central building, which allows for all kinds of efficiencies. In this case, this building is going to have a capacity to have 12 different chillers inside of it, which is a huge capacity to provide chilled water to air conditioned buildings.”

With one main chiller, up to 25 percent energy savings is possible due to having all the chillers together in one location, rather than have one in each separate building.

Readey said that these buildings need consistent air quality inside.

“Maintenance and energy conservation are the two biggest benefits the chiller plant has to offer for Ohio State,” Readey said. “It uses so much less energy to deliver air conditioning to these buildings.”

The project cost started at $72.5 million, but the budget was later increased to $77.3 million due to the addition of a seventh chiller to the project to support the radiation/oncology facility, the cancer and critical care tower, and other facilities in the medical center expansion project along with the generator building size from two generators to three generators, according to documents.

“We originally had six chillers being put in but with the hospital building being expanded we had to add the seventh chiller,” Readey said. “These are big, expenses pieces of equipment but we needed the seventh chiller.”

Ross Parkman, director of utility administration and engineering, said the chiller plant could be optimized for maximum efficiency by having low operating costs and by having future expansion capability.

“With a central chiller plant, operating costs are less. It is a little easier to both the chiller to be more efficient and the maintenance,” Parkman said.

Parkman also said maintenance will be simplified.

“The repairs will be much more effective because you only have to go to one location where as right now you might have to replace 30 different little chillers spread out in buildings,” Parkman said.

Parkman said that over time all the individual chillers would be replaced so that everything is running from one central location.

The plant will also feature an advancement in technology.

“The chiller will have the capability of ‘free cooling,’ which uses cold air in the winter to chill the water just by running the pumps. This will also cut down on costs,” Parkman said.

Parkman said this is not the only chiller plant on campus and will not be the last.

The McCracken Plant was up and running in 2000 and chills the water for 24 buildings on central campus.

“There is also one on the books that will be the east regional chiller plant,” Parkman said. “That will supply for the north academic core with construction starting in another year and online in 2014.”

Khanh Le, a third-year in biology and pre-pharmacy, said that she is grateful that the chiller plant will serve many buildings, including the college of pharmacy.

“The chiller plant is a remarkable way to reduce energy expenditure,” Le said. “I admire the architects’ design in creating a building to represent energy rather than simply exposing the pipes involved in chiller plants.”

Parkman said the design of the plant is another unique aspect of the construction.

“They did not want it to look like an industrial box,” Parkman said. “They wanted it to be an attractive building and have it not look like a factory.”

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