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Engineering Design That Keeps Things Chill

Within major cities, one engineering challenge is often overlooked: building infrastructure without detracting from the surrounding area.

As WBEZ noted in its recent show “Hidden in Plain Sight: Inside Downtown Chicago’s Windowless, Doorless Buildings,” the Loop contains “retail, offices, hotels, theaters, tourist attractions; places that are supposed to attract visitors and be aesthetically pleasing. Building owners and occupants typically don’t necessarily want to see, hear, or smell pipes, compressors, wires, or heavy machinery right next to their attractive buildings.”

One building highlighted was the Enwave Chiller Plant on State Street — a project for which ESD provided engineering design services, as well as technology consulting services and distribution system master planning services. The 25,000-ton chilled water generation plant boasts three 5,000-ton electric, motor-driven centrifugal chillers and 66,000 ton-hours of ice storage.

The system produces ice during off-peak hours when electricity costs are at their lowest. For new buildings, this allows for upfront cost and space savings, while existing buildings have been able to phase out their aging chiller plants and reduce their mechanical footprints.

Though the original design of the chiller plant included transparent glass walls, the building ended up being sheathed in an opaque material so as not to disturb shoppers and other passersby. Engineering design that doesn’t disturb an attractive area is another way ESD is Improving Society Through the Built Environment.