North District Utility Plant chiller

by Abbie Leland

Chilled water plants, like the recently-completely North District Utility Plant located on the Corvallis campus, are a forward-thinking approach to supplying water to buildings. These utility plants distribute water. The NDUP was designed with modern, energy-efficient chillers and cooling towers. This type of design will bring substantial energy savings and reliability to the research that happens at facilities such as Burt Hall, the Agricultural and Life Sciences Building, Nash Hall and Cordley and Withycombe Halls after renovation. 

The NDUP also replaces failing chillers in several of the buildings it now serves. This creates a more efficient, maintainable and reliable solution when compared to typical building chillers. The NDUP aids in the university’s path toward carbon neutrality and energy efficiency-focused goals. 

“The more prominent role of the distribution of chilled water, shared among the buildings and eventually the campus, is that this is the first step in a long-range endeavor to switch from distributing natural-gas-generated steam to electrically-heated-water,” said OSU Capital Planner John Gremmels. 

Rendering looking north, featuring improved sidewalks and outdoor classroom space between Joyce Collin Furman Hall (right) and the Pharmacy Building (left) as part of Phase 1 of the Community Hall Slope Project. (Rendering from Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture and Planning)

While the charm and delight of a 150-year-old campus like OSU’s Corvallis campus cannot be denied, often there are barriers to accessibility for students, staff and community members. One such (large) issue is that of the area surrounding Community Hall. For years, the Community Hall Slope has remained non-accessible to many disabled people due to the hill’s topography. 

Beginning in summer 2021, Phase 1 of the Community Hall Slope Project will start to address these accessibility challenges. The Community Hall Slope project is also a key piece in completing the Comprehensive Accessibility Plan for the Built Environment sponsored by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, according to Gabriel Merrell, director of access and affirmative action and deputy ADA coordinator for OSU. 

“OSU is prioritizing and improving accessibility for people with disabilities with the Community Hall Slope Project,” explained Merrell. “This steepest area of campus is one of the last remaining large puzzle pieces towards completing a comprehensive accessible travel grid connecting all accessible parking spaces, bus stops and building entrances with accessible routes.”

Phase 1 of the Community Hall Slope Project will include revitalized ADA access from the gateway of SW Jefferson Way and SW 15th Street to the Valley Library. The area will feature new wider sidewalks and walkways, improvements to building access and ADA ramps, and space for an outdoor classroom and seating between Furman Hall and the Pharmacy Building.

This part of the project is just the start of revitalizing the entire Community Hall area. The topography surrounding Community Hall is hilly and so the project, according to OSU’s capital planner John Gremmels, will feature a lot of moving parts. “It will be a technical challenge, but will be a holistic approach to removing barriers to accessibility in a beloved part of campus,” Gremmels said.

The entire Community Hall Slope Project will consist of three phases of construction work and will be funded partially by capital improvement and renewal funds from the state of Oregon.

Work on Phase 1 of the project will begin in June 2021—people on campus will see excavation and grading work, and the placement of underground electrical utilities and lighting. The entire Community Hall Slope Project is expected to run eight to 10 years, with four or more phases occurring every two years.