CU's Rec Center Seeks Affordable and Efficient Cooling Fix

This past spring, the University of Colorado-Boulder opened its newly renovated recreation center. Among the new features wowing users and making waves was its pool is shaped like the school's mascot, the buffalo.

Less visible to users, however, were renovations to the building's electrical and mechanical systems, which included installation of one of a sophisticated and sustainable air-displacement system as part of the project's goal of achieving a rare LEED Platinum certification. 

If users weren't aware of the feature when the facility opened, they are now. Through the system, excess heat generated by the ice rink cooling system is intended to heat the center's three pools, as well as tap water and showers. The problem is that the system is currently generating more heat than it is designed to handle. 

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“Whenever you’re making ice, you’re creating heat,” Gary Chadwick, director of recreation services at CU, told the university's student media publication. "The Rec Center runs that extra heat through a heat exchanger, taking hot water to the two indoor and one outdoor pool. But right now we have more heat than the pools can take."

The problem was discovered this past summer and was temporarily fixed by pumping the excess heat into the center's ventilation system.

Now that summer is over, CU is brainstorming a long term fix that will comply with their efforts to gain LEED Platinum certification for the center.

“We’re taking our time to investigate the best solution for the summer," said Ellesse Spaeth, a senior civil engineering major at CU. “This whole winter we’ll be making sure we have a solution that’s adequate and financially responsible."

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The school's need to come up with both an affordable and efficient long term fix has put them in a bind.

Some of the options being considered include regulating the temperature by adding a cooling tower, or bringing in chilled water to cool the hot water through a mixing valve.

“The logistics of a phased project mean there were a lot of things that weren’t anticipated,” Chadwick said. “It really is a matter of: Now that [the system] is here, let’s see how it really works. These systems all have their own personalities."



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