Chilled water project brings changes for campus air

Electric motors drive pumps to pump the chilled water across campus on Feb. 18, 2015. The chilled water facility will go through a $56 million dollar restoration project that could benefit the university for years to come. (Rodney Dimick | The Collegian)

Upcoming construction to bring chilled water for air conditioning to all parts of K-State will affect the way campus runs, both below and above ground.

Most of this construction will entail direct trenching for piping under Mid-Campus Drive, 17th Street and Claflin Road, as well as other roads and many sidewalks on campus.

Though these large construction projects will mainly occur during the summers of 2016 and 2017, construction will continue during the spring and fall semesters, according to Ryan Swanson, associate facilities vice president and university architect. Swanson spoke at an open forum on the topic of the upcoming construction on Wednesday.

As part of the K-State Master Plan, Mid-Campus Drive and 17th Street will be converted into pedestrian “malls” and be closed to all traffic except emergency, delivery and maintenance vehicles, according to Swanson.

“We are experiencing a lot of change on campus,” Cindy Bontrager, vice president for administration and finance, said.

The $56 million chilled water project is part of the K-State 2025 facilities improvement initiative. The project includes the construction of an additional chilling plant, the burial of new piping to campus buildings and landscaping once the pipes are in place, Swanson said.

Chilled water has been used on campus for years to provide air conditioning to buildings, according to Jack Carlson, project manager.

A new plant will be built near the K-State Recycling Center in the northeast part of campus to increase the chilled water capacity in the system. A facility near the power plant currently generates all the chilled water on campus, according to Swanson.

The $56 million will not cover the numerous building renovations that must occur in order to convert all campus buildings to chilled water, said Swanson.

According to Carlson, buildings like Waters Hall have only a “two-pipe” system that can run either hot water for heating or chilled water for cooling, but not both. These buildings must eventually be upgraded to a “four-pipe” system, which could end up costing millions per building. Some buildings on campus already have the new system, and all buildings currently being constructed will be built with the four-pipe system.

According to the campus Chilled Water Master Plan, centralized cooling offers greater efficiency for cooling campus buildings than localized chillers, which can be noisy. The new chilling plant, along with the current one, will provide enough capacity as more buildings are added to the system.

This means that students will eventually see fewer room air conditioning units hanging out of windows. That being said, things aren’t going to change too quickly, Carlson said.

During the meeting, concern was voiced regarding the project and its impact on the student body, especially regarding the future changes to Mid-Campus Drive and 17th Street.

“We don’t have all the answers right now, so it’s important for us to get (students’) feedback,” said Bontrager.

Bontrager and others expressed interest in developing effective communication strategies to inform students about the project.

“We’re here to help, and not make a problem,” said Daniel Lacy of McCrownGordon Construction, the Kansas City-based contractor for the project.

According to Swanson, periodic construction updates will keep students in the loop regarding which roads are closed or diverted so students will know the best way to get to class.

“We know we’re going to be intrusive, and we want to limit this as much as possible,” Lacy said.