CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s new Energy Center has just received Platinum LEED certification, the highest certification possible. Officials say it is the first platinum-rated power facility in the nation, the first Platinum LEED building on campus, and one of only two in the Oregon University System.
LEED is a certification system that ranks a building’s green features on a point system in several areas, including water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.
The OSU Energy Center, which became fully operational in June 2010, replaced a nearly 90-year-old heat plant with failing boilers and serious seismic issues. The new plant is a cogeneration facility that combines heating and electricity generation, allowing OSU to generate nearly half of its electrical needs on site. That approach is calculated to lower the university’s energy costs by around $650,000 a year, not to mention dramatically reducing its carbon footprint.
Larrie Easterly, the university’s engineering manager, said there is a laundry list of features that helped the building gain Platinum LEED status, including the white reflective roof, water-efficient landscaping, the use of recycled building materials and, in turn, recycling a majority of the project’s construction debris.
Other aspects include a rainwater harvesting system that is used for the boilers, radiant heating, hot water generated by heat recovery from the steam system, natural lighting and ventilation, and building energy use that is 52 percent better than the Oregon building code.
“I’ve worked on this project since day one, which is almost eight years ago,” Easterly said, “and it’s really nice to see something that a lot of people have worked on finally being completed. It’s not often that facilities staff gets to work on a building made for themselves.”
Brandon Trelstad, OSU sustainability coordinator, said the plant uses the waste heat generated when creating electricity at the plant to heat the campus. The plant uses a natural gas-fired turbine and heat recovery steam generator to produce power.
“By co-locating the electricity generation and heat production we gain tremendous efficiencies,” Trelstad said. “And by producing some of our own power we also ease the strain on the Corvallis power grid.”
The plant has a maximum generation capacity of 6.5 megawatts and will produce the equivalent of half the university’s electricity needs annually. It also is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 38 percent relative to the old plant.
In addition to its heating and energy producing roles, the Energy Center also will be a learning lab for OSU students. Students will be able to mine data from the center and run simulations to learn how energy production works, as well as other projects related to engineering and environmental sciences, including testing alternative bio-energy sources. The plant runs on natural gas with a diesel backup, but it can also run on biodiesel and methane.
Oh Planning + Design and Jacobs Engineering, both of Portland, collaborated on the center. W&H Pacific worked on civil engineering and landscape architecture; PAE Consulting Engineers worked on mechanical, electrical and plumbing; Green Building Services was hired for LEED documentation and certification; Rider, Levett & Bucknall for cost estimating; and Andersen Construction was the construction manager/ general contractor.
The project was funded by a combination of bonds, gifts, grants, energy tax credits and university funds. Some of the bond money will be repaid through energy savings.