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Shippensburg University Energy Systems Upgrade

Innovative approach to heating and cooling offers energy and construction savings.
  • New red brick chiller plant situated next to a large, white, round storage tank - Gannett Fleming.

    The new 3,000 ton cooling plant and 1.7 million gallon storage tank allow chilled water to be generated during off-peak hours.

  • Interior view of a heating plant’s mechanical room showing new boilers and associated pumps and piping - Gannett Fleming.

    Clustered plants with multiple high-efficiency boilers offer sufficient redundancy to prevent outages.

  • Interior view of new central cooling plant showing chillers and associated piping - Gannett Fleming.

    A new central cooling plant replaced the aging cooling system improving air conditioning efficiency.

  • Construction equipment digging trenches and installing new piping along a campus roadway - Gannett Fleming.

    Intensive coordination allowed new underground piping systems to be installed while the campus remained operational.

Shippensburg University

Joint venture with WM Group 

Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Our Role
Project Management, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Structural, Civil, Architecture, Geotechnical, Acoustics.

27 buildings, 1.8 million sq. feet
Construction Cost
$31 million
New Construction
4 years
  • New systems save $750,000 annually in energy, operations, and maintenance costs
  • Annual electrical energy savings of $250,000
  • New clustered, smaller heating plants saved $19.3 million in construction costs
  • Campus remained safe and fully operational while new systems were installed
  • Students and faculty enjoy more comfortable and reliable heating and cooling.

Throughout Shippensburg University’s 200-acre campus, 27 of its 55 buildings were heated by a 60-plus-year-old, coal-fired steam plant. The growing cost of maintaining an aging and fragmented infrastructure, escalating environmental regulations, and a desire for improved energy-efficiency, drove the university to consider upgrading to a new natural gas system.  

Designing and implementing a new system impacting 1.8 million-square-feet while maintaining operations on a busy campus required careful planning and intense coordination. Shippensburg University turned to Gannett Fleming and the WM Group for help. The university originally planned to replace its existing system with one modern natural gas-fired plant and a comprehensive distribution piping network. However, after carefully studying design options, our engineers found a better way.

What We Did

Gannett Fleming offered an innovative solution to dramatically reduce costs. The project team determined that a construction cost savings of $19.3 million, and total lifecycle cost savings of $50 million, could be realized by designing a de-centralized heating system in lieu of a single central plant structure. Now, clustered mini heating plants with natural gas-fired boilers provide heat to all campus buildings. The 25 new high-efficiency boilers, located in six new boiler room locations, reduce the distance heat needs to travel, decreasing distribution losses. This creative heating solution has made an impact. For the 2014-2015 heating season, the campus’s energy utilization index decreased by more than 38.1 percent compared to the previous four years. 

Upgrades to the campus’s cooling system also produced positive results. A new 3,000-ton, high-efficiency cooling plant utilizing variable primary flow pumping and underground piping distribution now provides the majority of campus cooling. To reduce on-peak demand cooling, a 1.7-million gallon thermal energy storage tank was installed. It allows chilled water to be generated during off-peak hours, such as overnight, and provides up to four hours of full-load capacity without the need for mechanical cooling. By updating its heating and cooling systems in such an innovative way, the university is better positioned to provide a safe, reliable, and sustainable environment for its students, staff, and faculty – today and into the future.

Key Features

  • Clustered, mini heating plants with natural gas boilers deliver heat more efficiently across the campus
  • New boilers are designed with sufficient redundancy so a loss of one boiler does not affect the system’s ability to meet heating needs
  • Boilers are integrated with the existing campus building automation system (BAS) to maximize efficiency
  • A 1.7-million gallon thermal energy storage tank allows chilled water to be generated during off-peak hours to conserve energy
  • An existing 500-ton packaged air-cooled chiller was relocated to provide for low load operation and additional redundancy
  • Construction phasing took advantage of off-season heating and cooling shut-downs to minimize disruptions.

Sustainability Features & Outcomes

  • Conversion from coal to gas reduces the university’s carbon footprint by 68 percent
  • The campus’s energy utilization index decreased by more than 30 percent over the previous four years
  • The university realized a 12 percent reduction in kilowatt hour consumption and a 14.8 percent reduction in demand, despite an 11 percent increase in cooling degree days.

Awards & Recognition

  • Energy Project of the Year, 2016, U.S. Green Building Council Central Pennsylvania, Forever Green Awards
  • Diamond Award, 2016, American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania, Engineering Excellence Awards. 

Similar Projects: Education, Engineering, Engineering: Facilities, Education: Higher Education, Facilities: Mechanical