Historic steam plant wins gold LEED rating

February 21, 2011The renovated steam plant on East Campus has received a gold LEED certification rating from the United States Green Building Council.

The 85-year-old steam plant received LEED recognition – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – for sustainable construction practices during restoration and for its performance. Natural gas – not coal – fuel 15 new boilers.
steam plant
“When we first started the renovation process, we hoped for a gold rating, but didn’t know what to expect,” said Floyd Williams, who managed the steam plant renovation project for Duke Facilities Management. “Typically, the LEED system doesn’t work well with certain types of buildings like a steam plant, so this is pretty exciting.”

Originally built in 1926, the coal-burning plant helped heat campus buildings until 1978. Through a $25 million renovation project, the plant found new life in helping Duke cut its coal consumption by 70 percent by burning natural gas instead. The new boilers now provide 35 percent more steam to heat academic and medical buildings, sterilize surgical equipment and maintain proper humidity for art and lab research.

Williams said that he’s not familiar with any other buildings like Duke’s steam plant that have received a LEED certification. In November 2010, Duke’s parking garage on Research Drive received a “certified” LEED status, marking the first recognition of its kind for a free-standing garage.

For the steam plant to receive a gold rating, Williams said it garnered 40 of a possible 69 points. Highlights of the plant’s sustainable aspects include Facilities’ use of 87 percent of the original building in renovations and used of an existing old tank to collect and reuse rainwater to operate the plant’s only toilet.

The plant performed best (12 out of 15 points) in the “Indoor Environmental Quality” section, which awards points for things like overall air and temperature quality and the amount of sunlight that flows into work spaces.

“The lobby has three huge windows, and we also use high-grade filters to increase air quality,” Williams said. “We get so much sunlight in our control room you sometimes can’t see the computer’s monitor. We had to install some shades.”

In addition to its LEED certification, the steam plant has received awards from various architecture and business groups and publications. More information about the history of the steam plant and its renovations is available online.