Big Shift trench

Understanding Big Shift Construction

The Big Shift is an infrastructure overhaul, shifting our heating system from steam-based to hot water-based. This massive change will ultimately reduce our reliance of fossil fuels and represent a necessary step toward carbon neutrality. This universitywide change will take years to complete and will be split into districts one area on campus will be converted to hot water at a time. For each district, construction will include installing new pipes, retrofitting the mechanical rooms in buildings and updating and improving campus-level heating infrastructure.

Installing hot water pipes

In order to transfer hot water to and from buildings, new supply and return pipes need to be installed across campus. This process involves digging trenches, install pipes and pouring insulation over the pipes before restore surfaces. Read more about how we're installing new pipes.

Preparing buildings for hot water

The mechanical rooms in buildings are currently designed to use steam. In order for them to utilize the hot water, new equipment has to be installed in each building. Find out how we're minimizing the impact on building occupants.

Updating central infrastructure

Once all the new pipes are laid and the buildings are converted, the boiler at the Central Heating and Cooling Plant will be decommissioned and completely replaced with renewable sources of hot water.

District-by-district construction

While the construction in each district of the Big Shift will require the installation of hot water pipes and building conversions, there will also be unique aspects to each phase of construction, including temporary measures to make the use of hot water possible and steps to update central heating infrastructure.

Quad District

A heat exchanger was installed in a temporary building near Wellman Hall. This piece of equipment converts the steam generated at the Central Heating and Cooling Plant into hot water, which is then circulated through the quad district

See the steampunk equipment in action.

Sprocket District

During this portion of construction, two heat recovery chillers will be installed at the Thermal Energy and Storage (TES) Plant to replace the oldest chillers. In addition, a TES tank that can store hot water will be installed at the plant. The heat recovery chiller will repurpose energy that's typically discarded in the process of generating chilled water for the campus cooling system and use that energy to heat hot water.

Read more about the upcoming innovations.