Student tour of campus HVAC systems showcases OSU’s progress on climate action

Students from the College of Engineering explored basement mechanical rooms and rooftop cooling towers on a two-day tour of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that keep OSU’s buildings comfortable and safe every day. The tours took place at Kelley Hall and the North District Utility Plant and were led by staff from Project Delivery and Facilities Services.

A behind-the-scenes look at campus operations

Students from the College of Engineering’s Fundamentals of HVAC course along with their instructor, Assistant Professor Dr. Parichehr Salimifard, toured two buildings on the Corvallis campus to learn how HVAC systems support critical research functions and day-to-day operations. The students were able to see various pieces of equipment up close and learn how these systems have been improved and updated to increase energy efficiency over time.

Construction Manager Justin Fuszek from Project Delivery led the tour alongside Refrigeration Mechanics Sean OIsen, Reice Moyer and Cody Green from Facilities Services. They were joined by Building Controls Analyst Ross Ruecker.

Day one of the tour began in the Kelley chiller room, where Olsen demonstrated how each piece of equipment functioned and the role each played in the overall HVAC system. From there, the group moved on to explore the roof top cooling towers, which cool hot water coming through the system via evaporation.  

Fuszek engaged students in a conversation about HVAC career options and encouraged them to see the field as one filled with opportunities for learning and technological advancement.

Advancing HVAC technology to reduce climate impact

Day two of the tour kicked off at the North District Utility Plant, which was completed in 2021. The plant contains three 1500-ton chillers which serve multiple buildings in the area, including science labs at Cordley, Nash and Burt Halls and the Agriculture & Life Sciences Building. The chillers were constructed with additional capacity so that more buildings can be added to the system in the future.

In contrast to the older model chillers in the Kelley building, the NDUP chillers require less energy to operate and can be controlled and adjusted to match output with current demand. Much of the energy savings comes from the chillers having magnetic bearings instead of mechanical ones. This design improvement reduces friction, leading to less demand on the compressor motors.

Supporting OSU’s scientists & research projects

HVAC systems play an important role at Oregon State due to the numerous science labs and research projects on campus. Without these temperature control and ventilation systems, certain types of scientific research and experiments would be impossible to conduct. OSU researchers rely on HVAC systems to keep building temperatures consistent and ensure safe indoor air quality.

Fuszek said that even during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic when many OSU staff members were working remotely, Facilities Services continued to monitor and maintain the HVAC systems around campus in order to protect critical research projects from damage.

Moyer recommends HVAC careers to anyone interested in mechanical systems and creative problem-solving. “Careers in the HVAC field can be fascinating,” he said. “There are many different subcategories to explore and endless possibilities of where a career can lead you.”

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