Tunneling continues

Work continues on the energy-saving infrastructure improvement project to update the aging heating and cooling systems throughout the Portland State campus.

Work continues on the energy-saving infrastructure improvement project to update the aging heating and cooling systems throughout the Portland State campus.

Construction is most evident in the Park Blocks, where fences have been set up from Shattuck Hall to Millar Library and from Millar Library to Science Building 2.
The project to transition to a more efficient and sustainable system of high-pressure steam and chilled water-supported heating and cooling was originally expected to be completed August 2010, as first reported by the Vanguard in November, 2009. However, it now looks as though it might be a little longer before the fences in the Park Blocks come down.

Mark Fujii, construction manager for the project, puts the current expected end date at February 2011.

“This project is a major infrastructure improvement for Portland State University that will ensure a more sustainable campus for current and future students,” Fujii said.

Phase one of the project began in February of 2008, and Fujii describes that phase as “mostly complete.” Work started in the East Heating Plant in the Cramer Hall sub-basement, with the installation of a new 750-ton chiller.

The first phase also included upgrades to the steam and chilled water piping from Cramer Hall, through Smith Memorial Student Union and Neuberger Hall, to Shattuck Hall and across Broadway Street to the Education and School of Business Administration and the University Services Building.

A tunnel, also part of phase one, was constructed across Sixth Avenue to the new Academic and Student Recreation Center.

According to Fujii, this tunnel has yet to have piping installed due to funding constraints.  It does, however, provide a future path to extend the loop to the east side of campus for buildings like the ASRC.

Phase two, currently the main focus of construction, will cost an additional $17.5 million in state economic stimulus funds. It includes the construction of two utility tunnels, the “south tunnel” and the “west tunnel.”

The south tunnel will connect Shattuck Hall to the south end of Millar Library through the Park Blocks. The west tunnel will connect the west side of Millar Library to Science Building 2.

The “north tunnel” and “east tunnel” were already part of the PSU landscape prior to construction.

“These are utility tunnels and are not for pedestrian access. They will be filled with chilled water and steam piping to create a full loop around campus,” Fujii said.

The addition of the south and west tunnels and new piping added to the north tunnel will allow more energy-efficient equipment to transport heating and cooling to greater portions of campus, according to Fujii.

 “In the future, we hope to create similar loops on the other side of Broadway, possibly all the way down to Fourth Avenue,” Fujii said.

Phase two of construction also includes the installation of a new 1000-ton chiller and geothermal wells in and around Science Building 2.

“Installation of a new 1000-ton chiller in the sub-basement of Science Building 2 and new wells to the south of SB2 began this February,” said Hannah Fischer, a Facilities and Planning representative.  “This will be PSU’s largest and most energy-efficient chiller, completing the university’s energy saving upgrades from economic stimulus dollars.”

Fujii claims that PSU may see more development in this part of campus in the coming years.

“This end of campus is projected to grow significantly as the campus population grows in the future. Buildings will be able to connect to this utility loop and we will have the capability to serve new buildings using our most energy-efficient equipment,” Fujii said.

Construction has not been completely worry-free for Fujii and the team at Fortis Construction. Last month, crews hit an unexpected buried gas line, causing an evacuation of Montgomery Court.

“We usually are able to identify potential hazards ahead of time using utility locating services.  Unfortunately, this particular utility was not identified by these services,” Fujii said. “Fortunately, no one was hurt and it impacted construction progress for just half a day.”