Construction is set to begin on a new facility that will provide more resources to help affordably operate the growing University of Central Florida campus and serve as an educational tool for students.

District Energy Plant IV, a water plant that will break ground Feb. 1 on the northeast side of campus, will produce both chilled and hot water to cool and dehumidify buildings on campus, including the under-construction Research 1 Building, formerly called the Interdisciplinary Research and Incubator building. The plant’s energy-efficient materials combined with its overall life-cycle cost is estimated to save the university $121,000 annually in operation costs and resources.

“This project has been developed over three years and in many phases to ensure we meet our current and future energy demands in the most efficient way possible,” said Curtis Wade, director of UCF Utilities & Energy Services. “Our goal always is to ensure that energy at UCF remains as affordable and reliable as possible.”

Historical data of campus cooling and other energy demands were used by Utilities & Energy Services and Facilities Planning and Construction to design this project.

District Energy Plant IV will have the capacity to produce 8,000 tons of chilled water, but only 4,000 tons will be put in place in the first phase. One thousand tons of chilled water will be used by the Research 1 Building alone, and the remaining 3,000 tons will be added to the existing underground infrastructure that serves nearly 75 percent of main-campus buildings. Research 1 Building is a 100,000-square-foot, three-story building that will have a mix of research labs, conference rooms and offices when it opens later this year. At maximum capacity, District Energy Plant IV can support six additional buildings the size of the Research 1 Building.

The $14 million District Energy Plant IV project also is designed to serve as an educational tool for students. Interior pipes will be color coded, rather than just a “sea of pipes,” to better show the various water circuits involved in the plant’s operation, Wade said. Plus, an electric dashboard will display in real time the plant’s metrics, including efficiency, energy usage and dollar per ton being saved, to name a few. Plant tours will provide educational opportunities outside of the classroom for engineering disciplines.

“The campus grounds and the building itself can be used as a teaching tool, where we can blend academics with operations,” said Wade, who added that LEED certification, a high-performance green building rating system, will be pursued for the new plant. If granted, this will be UCF’s first industrial LEED certified facility on campus.

RLF Architects is the architect and engineer of record for the project, Exp is the third-party commissioning agent and LEED consultant, and Charles Perry Partners Inc. is the construction manager.  The plant is expected to be complete in November.