Miller School Shows Off the “Heartbeat of the Campus”

Last week, facilities and engineering staff had the opportunity to show off the Miller School’s Central Energy Plant to about 100 utilities experts who probably had an idea how spectacular the state-of-the-art facility is. They were visiting Miami for the 24th annual Campus Energy Conference, “Cleaner Energy, Greener Campus,” sponsored by the International District Energy Association, or IDEA.

The conference attendees who toured the Miller School campus probably had not, however, heard a flagship facility described quite the way Marcelo Bezos, director of utilities and engineering, put it:

“The Central Energy Plant is really the heartbeat of the campus,’’ Bezos said. “It has about 6,000 feet of arteries and veins that circulate life-supporting fluid throughout our medical and research facilities, covering 2.8 million square feet of space that’s used for research, hospital and administrative work.”

Organized by Ron Bogue, assistant vice president for facilities and services, the tour began when the visitors, who hold staff or consulting positions in utilities, engineering and facilities in various institutions across the nation, assembled at the 15th Street Garage, home to the Central Energy Plant. Standing in the power plant with the Kohler generators humming in the background, Bezos welcomed the group and briefed them on the construction, cost, uses and capacity of the plant, as well as the nearby Biomedical Research Building.

They learned that the 47,000-square-foot chiller and generator plant, topped by a nine-story parking garage with 1,400 parking spaces, was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, as well as a number of other interesting facts. Among them: The three 4,000-ton chillers evaporate about 150 million gallons of water annually to cool the medical campus. Underground, the “life-supporting” pipes, 36 inches in diameter, extend from the chiller building to the Biomedical Research Building and other buildings across the campus to air-condition them via the energy-efficient system.

Three 20-cylinder, 2.8-megawatt generators occupy an additional 6,000 square feet.

The nine-story Biomedical Research Building, which encompasses 64,700 square feet of office space and 100,928 square feet of research space, houses the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, and the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified project was honored in the higher education/research category with a “Best of 2009 Award of Excellence” from Southeast Construction magazine.

During the tour, visitors heard from representatives of Newcomb & Boyd, the Atlanta-based engineering company, Composite Cooling Solutions, L.P., and several other firms that worked on the Miller School projects.

Juan Ontiveros, executive director of utilities and energy management at the University of Texas at Austin, said the tour and the conference overall provided good learning opportunities for the industry.

“We operate a very large system,” he said. “We have 54,000 tons of cooling and 135-megawatt power plant and we self-produce all our energy, so it’s good to get a perspective of how other people operate. If there is something I can glean from how other people do business, I want to learn from it. And, on the reverse side, there are things we do that others could perhaps benefit from, and that’s open to them.”

Bezos agreed, adding, “It’s about sharing ideas with your colleagues and, at the same time, showcasing some of the behind-the-scenes efforts that are crucial for the University. What the University is carrying out is truly a noble mission and we are proud to do our part in support of that mission on a day-to-day basis.”

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