At first glance, Hot Water Plant No. 2, the newest addition to Duke’s utility infrastructure, looks like a tangle of thick pipes and towering columns.
But by helping parts of West Campus move off of Duke’s steam system, the plant represents a major stride in the energy efficiency of Duke’s campus.
“Steam distribution was state of the art in the 1920s,” said Duke Facilities Management Director of Utilities and Engineering Russell Thompson. “It still works, there’s no doubt. But it’s not the best technology today.”
For most of Duke’s history, campus’ heating needs have been met by its steam system. Dating back to 1926, the system features steam plants on East and West campuses that burn natural gas to power massive boilers and feed steam into a network of roughly 23 miles of pipe.
The steam is used in heating buildings and domestic water, sterilizing instruments at Duke University Hospital and controlling humidity in campus facilities to protect things such as library materials and artwork.