Brown University

Campuswide Utility Systems Renewal and Upgrade
Providence, R.I.

Project cost 
+$80 million total project cost
Time frame 

Project award - January 2005
Major design and construction documents completed -
July 2008
Final construction completed - Summer 2010

Practice areas involved 
Cogeneration/combined heat and power (CHP)
Key services provided 
The challenge 

Brown University, the prestigious Ivy League institution established nearly 250 years ago, found itself in need of a comprehensive utility systems upgrade by 2010 - one that encompassed the campus's central heating and cooling and electrical systems. Constructed over time without benefit of an overall utility master plan, these systems were not functioning efficiently, to say the least. Aging absorption chillers, for example, had been replaced at some point with electric chillers, without consideration of the need for high-pressure steam for use in power generation - something the campus relied on to offset higher electricity usage during peak cooling season. Without the demand for high-temperature hot water during cooling season, the distribution piping suffered thermal stresses and, ultimately, failures.

The smart solution 

Brown University selected WM Group Engineers over several well-known engineering firms to provide schematic design and construction documents to renovate these systems and improve their efficiency. The scope of these documents included expansion and major remediation of the existing high-temperature hot water distribution system; modification to the central plant systems to meet future loads and help utilize the existing back-pressure turbine generator during the cooling season; a cogeneration feasibility study; a study of the feasibility of interconnecting and centralizing satellite chilled-water plants; upgrading existing electrical site distribution systems and substations to improve overall system reliability and flexibility. WM Group's work will optimize Brown's utility systems through, among other upgrades, the construction of two new chiller plants, a new electrical substation, several miles of new underground distribution piping and a new gas turbine cogeneration system.

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