AGGRESSIVE PHASE MANAGEMENT AT UGA
At the edge of downtown Athens, Ga., an arch installed in 1857 marks the entrance to UGA’s North campus. The campus holds immense historical value, especially in buildings that date back to the early 1800s. These include the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building, comprising Ivy Hall, built in 1835, and the Library Building, built in 1860 – which were combined in 1905 to create the version that exists today – and other landmarks like the Chapel and its beloved Chapel Bell, and Herty Field, the university’s first athletic venue.
The heating system for this part of campus has evolved over the years from local and regional steam boilers to campus steam distribution; the most recently updated system utilized low-pressure steam that originated from an on-site generation plant and ran through two pressure reduction points along the path to North Campus. Following a series of steam system planning studies, RMF developed a modernization plan to replace this with regional heating water systems.
The cooling systems for this part of UGA’s campus had already been modernized to chilled water, but the buildings were still served by unitary equipment that was nearing the end of its service life. Consequently, an extension of the campus district chilled water system was needed. With the further modernizing of infrastructure on North Campus came an opportunity to replace and upsize existing domestic water, electric and communications utilities. These improvements brought redundancy and reliability while helping enable a transition to lower-carbon energy sources in the oldest section of campus.
To minimize disruption, RMF distributed work across three phases involving an upgrade and extension of the North Campus chilled water system as well as the development of a regional heating water plant and distribution system.
The first phase was completed in 2021 and included the heating water distribution extension and routing of the underground utilities between Candler Hall, Meigs Hall and Moore Hall up to the west side of Herty Drive. This phase also connected Meigs and Moore Halls to the North Campus chilled water system, allowing for the removal of the noisy air-cooled chiller serving these two buildings, which house a mix of academic and office space. Domestic water and medium-voltage electrical systems were also installed for future use.
The project’s second phase was completed in the summer of 2022 and extended the heating water, chilled water and domestic water further north – connecting the Chapel and the New College building to campus chilled water and enabling the planned renovation of the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building. A total HVAC renovation of the Chapel was also completed in this phase, which enabled the transition to campus chilled water while requiring an interim steam to-heating water converter. Challenges in this phase involved coming up with a structural design for crossing under the shallow brick foundation of the Chapel. This phase provided the larger campuswide system with further redundancy and reliability.
Keeping the existing low-pressure steam system active during these two initial phases of utility construction required highly coordinated design and construction. Low-pressure steam was utilized for campus heat until the end of the spring semester in 2023, when it was shut down for construction of the regional heating water plant. The first two phases carried the heating water distribution into the building’s mechanical rooms, where it was left inactive until the final phase delivers heating water to the spaces.
The project’s final phase will be the development of the heating water regional plant in Candler Hall, for which RMF is providing design and construction administration. Medium pressure campus steam (45 PSIG) will generate 180 F water for service to the new regional heating water distribution system. The regional plant utilizes fully redundant heat exchangers and pumps to ensure reliability of the system and is sized to accommodate further extensions of the distribution system on North Campus and for a supply temperature setpoint reduction to 130F, allowing for the distribution system to accommodate future system upgrades utilizing lower grade heat sources.