Students Tour WCCUP

Recently, first-year student sustainability ambassadors participated in a walking tour of the West Campus Combined Utility Plant (WCCUP). WCCUP is located just north of the Center for Care and Discovery across from Washington Park. The WCCUP provides cooling and heating to the University’s expanding collection of north campus research and medical buildings. 

Facilities Services Assistant Plant Manager, Mike DeSoto (pictured on the left) and student Sustainability Ambassadors discuss the energy efficiency and reliability impact of completing preventative on campus chillers.

The goal of the walking tour was to provide an in-depth look at the processes responsible for the transmission and distribution of critical utilities such as steam and chilled-water across campus and to the medical center. Following a brief introduction by Mike DeSoto, assistant plant manager, students were led into the facility to discuss monitoring capabilities and recent control upgrades. 

Enar Leferink, a first-year student in the College noted, “Seeing the complexity of this operation, combined with its vitality, gives you a different perspective.” He added, “Seeing how things are well controlled and maintained is comforting.”

From the control room, the group went on to explore other key aspects of the facility. Students peered into large industrial chillers and boilers, caught a glimpse of the miles-long steam tunnel, and visited the cooling towers overlooking UChicago campus. Facilities Services hopes to make the tour regularly available to members of the campus community and looks forward to providing more education and engagement in this area. 

The University of Chicago is a proud ENERGY STAR Partner, working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and our peer institutions to find ways to reduce higher education campus energy usage. Part of our communication and engagement strategy is to highlight energy conservation and sustainability efforts to students in the College. Students are a driving force behind energy use and behavioral change in buildings, as they are the key stakeholders and prime inhabitants of the campus. To encourage rigorous thought and inquiry around sustainability and efficiency, we have created programming that brings students together to discuss the current environmental challenges facing our campus and city, and how they can leverage ENERGY STAR and University resources to improve those conditions. We are excited to engage the UChicago community and communicate our efforts more widely in the years to come.  

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