The majority of University buildings are heated with steam from the University Heating Plant. This plant, located just south of Schroeder Hall generates steam via four large boilers. The steam is distributed to campus buildings via underground pipes.
The majority of cooling for campus buildings comes from six central chilled water plants located at the Heating Plant, Science Lab, SE Plant on Beaufort St., South Campus Plant on University, NW plant next to Redbird Arena, and the Bone & Milner Plant located at the Bone Student Center. In addition, some buildings have their own dedicated air conditioning systems.
Unlike residential air conditioning systems which use refrigerant gasses, most of the campus air cooling systems used chilled water and have to be drained at the end of the cooling season to prevent freeze damage. This is a time consuming process with the draining and the filling across all campus buildings each taking three to four weeks to complete.
The Heating Plant crews continually watch the weather forecasts in the fall and spring to optimize the time for draining the systems before cold weather and refilling the systems before hot weather. Due to the variation in temperatures and the amount of time required to drain and fill, there are occasionally periods when chilled water is not available when outside temperatures are warm.
Heating and air conditioning in most campus buildings are controlled using campus building automation systems with central terminals located in the Heating plant. The building automation systems allow the Office of Energy Management (OEM) to effectively control HVAC systems to optimize comfort, efficiency and reliability. The system provides alarms when control parameters get outside of their proper ranges and in many cases OEM employees can address a problem before building occupants are even aware that anything is amiss.