Local News

Duke trustees approve steam plant renovation

Posted May 10, 2008 8:51 p.m. EDT

— The Duke University Board of Trustees on Saturday approved a $20 million renovation of the 1929 steam plant on Campus Drive, which will give the university and medical center more steam-producing capacity and provide a cleaner-burning alternative to coal.

The old steam plant was one of the original campus buildings designed by the architectural firm of Horace Trumbauer.

“This project is reviving the East Campus Steam Plant in order to provide additional steam capacity to meet the needs of our expanding campus,” said John Noonan, associate vice president for facilities at Duke. “It has been incorporated into a campuswide plan, so it fits in with what will happen on Campus Drive over the long term.”

The 6,600-square-foot brick steam plant, built in 1929 and unused since 1978, is located on the eastern end of Campus Drive. The project involves removing three no-longer-used, coal-fired steam boilers and installing high-efficiency boilers that will use natural gas, with propane as a backup fuel. It will increase steam production capacity on campus by about 35 percent. Duke uses steam primarily for heating, as well as for dehumidifying buildings and other purposes.

In keeping with the university’s commitment to sustainability, the new plant will burn natural gas, which produces lower emissions and greenhouse gases than other fuels, including coal. The West Campus Steam Plant primarily burns coal, but also burns natural gas and fuel oil. It was recently upgraded to meet and stay ahead of environmental standards, but it is at capacity and has no room to expand at its location, Noonan said.

Last summer, President Richard H. Brodhead signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, and appointed a committee of students, faculty and staff to develop a plan to reach the goal of making Duke’s campus climate-neutral.

The project will begin this summer and will be completed in the fall of 2009.