The Great Chilled Water Bazaar Or Harvard's Energy Labyrinth

A Grays Hall resident complained to a Buildings and Grounds (B&G) official earlier this semester because her room was too cold. Lately it has been so hot she has had to leave the window open all night. Harvard students like her wonder if the University is at all concerned with energy conservation.

Anne J. Brackman '80, of Harvard Ecology Action, an undergraduate organization interested in environmental issues, reflects many students' beliefs when she says, "We don't really know what Harvard's energy policies are." adding that if a program does exist it is very difficult to find out about.

"In the smaller rooms it gets fairly hot if I close the door, and sometimes, I have to open the windows to regulate it," a sophomore says. "I think it has something to do with the way the radiators are situated right next to the windows, and the way the rooms are so confined," he adds.

Harvard officials also point out the connection between windows, room design, and energy waste. Open windows account for the highest loss of energy to the University, J. Lawrence Joyce, director of the Buildings and Grounds department, says. This leads to the overheated rooms that so many students complain about, Joyce adds.

If a thermostat is near a window, the cold air coming from an open window can cause the thermostat to signal an increase in heat output, Joyce says. "But if the thermostat is set properly in the right place, then the system will be at balance," he adds.

On cold days, heat is often raised to the point of overcompensation, so when a warmer day follows, it is hard to cool off the rooms in response, Paul Mark, automation foremar, at B&G, says.

However, B&G does more than make excuses, for Harvard does have an energy policy of a sort, although it's made up of a number of separate programs. The department has a computer regulating environments in about 180 University buildings, and an active program to encourage general energy consciousness. In addition, a study completed last summer under the auspices of the Department of Analytical Studies tried to calculate how effective Harvard's energy conservation policies are.

The Honeywell Delta 2500 computer is located in the University's chilled water plant, nestled underground in the rear of the science center. The computer, used as a sort of alarm system, is tied into localized sensing systems, called points, in various classrooms, office buildings, laboratories and dormitories. An "alarm" is triggered when heating systems approach pre-set temperature maximums or minimums. The computer also responds to fire alarms in the buildings which are tied into it.

To be part of the Delta system, the various University Faculties (like those of the Law and Business schools) must pay B&G for each point. It is less expensive to buy a large quantity of points than to buy just a few.

"It is possible to save tremendous amounts of energy by being able to control building systems," Mark says. Since so much is done automatically, the energy that would have been wasted while someone walked around to all the various buildings shutting heating systems is saved, he adds.

Mark says steam consumption by the University is now less than it was two years ago when the Delta 2500 was installed.

The computer regulates the temperatures in specific areas like the library and the second floor of Eliot House, says Mark. About 420 points in Holyoke Center alone are regulated by the Delta 2500, he adds.

Many older buildings are not readily adaptable to the Delta system, so instead they are regulated according to outside temperature by local controllers, called "weathermen," Mark says.

Serious effort is made at regulating environments in Harvard buildings, but when something goes wrong, it is not usually because the computer has made a mistake, but rather because of a local console misfunction, if the building is on the Delta system, Mark says.

For example, last month a Science Center room reached about 90 degrees because of such a breakdown and it happened during a lecture on computers.

MIT also has a computer system regulating indoor environments, Mark says. Visitors from all over the country come to investigate the Harvard Delta 2500, which is manned 24 hours a day, he adds.

A visitor to the computer control room has to walk by gargantuan blue and green pipes of the chilled water plant, another part of Harvard's often confusing energy program. The chilled water plant was built about six years ago, along with the Science Center. The plant pumps water at about 39 degrees Fahrenheit to 13 buildings. The water is then used in the air conditioning systems of those buildings.

As another energy conserving step, the department of Buildings and Grounds initiated the Planned Energy Preservation Program (PEP) several years ago, PEP is "a program to closely integrate the needs of the various faculties with the people who use them," Norman Goodwin Jr., manager of utilities at B&G, says.

"Users of buildings advise B&G of their operating schedule, Joyce says, adding, "Then B&G controls heat or cooling in order to meet requirements for when buildings are or aren't in use."

"There was damage a couple of years ago," Joyce adds, remembering the time in 1976 (before he came to his present job) when temperatures were cut so much during Christmas vacation that pipes froze and exploded, necessitating high repair costs.

In addition, many experimental animals and plants in the Science Center and other labs were damaged or destroyed by the low temperature, Goodwin adds.

In a report sponsored by the Office of Administrative Studies, other aids in energy conservation, including the installment of storm windows in dormitories during the last few years, Christmas vacation policies and heightened general energy consciousness, along with PEP and Delta automation, were explored for cost effectiveness.

The report says the highest energy expenditures made by the University go for steam, used in heating and cooling, and for electricity, used to power the fans and pumps of the heating and ventilating systems, and to power lights, lab equipment, and air conditioning systems.

Joyce says last year about $4.5 million were spent on steam in Cambridge alone, while $1.5 million went toward steam costs at the Medical School area. The cost of electricity in Cambridge was $7 million, while at the Medical School area it was $1.5 million. Gas and oil, Joyce adds, are only used in Cambridge, where $250,000 and $500,000 were spent respectively.

The report found the Delta 2500 computer was responsible for an 18 per cent annual reduction in steam consumption during fiscal 1976. "General consciousness," as the energy people call it, was responsible for a 20 per cent reduction in steam consumption, while storm windows and Christmas vacation efforts led to cut downs of 19 and 17 per cent each, respectively.

The Delta computer system, the report adds, led to a negligible decrease in electricity use, but the general energy consciousness led to a 22 per cent cut.

Seventeeen buildings were the basis of the report's analysis, which showed $2 million were saved University-wide, compared to fiscal 1970-72 base, from conservation measures at 1976 energy prices.

The report, which Goodwin said was greeted with "mixed reactions," suggests consideration of a booklet on energy conservation to increase the benefit of energy consciousness.

Joyce says B&G plans no specific programs to decrease energy waste.

Goodwin adds that one area of potential improvement is development of more heat recovery systems of greater efficiency, where exhaust is run through heat exchangers to heat incoming areas. the new natorium, track and field building, and Watson Rink all have heat recovery systems, Goodwin adds.

Heat recovery systems can be dangerous in chemistry and biology laboratories, Goodwin says, because the potential hazard of recycling poisonous gas always exists.

The amount of glass used in several prominent Harvard buildings inevitably comes up when discussing energy conservation at the University. Both Hilles Library and the Science Center have large portions of glass walls and large windows.

"Some of those buildings were designed just prior to the energy crunch," Goodwin says. Glass on the south side of the Science Center keeps the sunlight in during the summer, he says.

Of course much heat is lost during the winter through the glass, but "a number of times during the year, there's a balance, like in the fall and the spring," he adds.

"It is true the Science Center would have modified if it had been built today, Goodwin says. "The amount of glass used in the new John F. Kennedy School building has been deliberately modified downward," he adds.

Some buildings, like William James Hall, have been recently renovated to be more efficient in energy use, Mark says. William James now has its own chilled water plant, which frees it from dependence upon the one below the Science Center.

Goodwin says most of the Harvard energy conservation proposals are based on cost-effectiveness. "You have to use some theory in a system, but systems are not theoretical; they're practical," Goodwin adds.

"All new buildings have to be more responsive now than before the energy crisis," he adds.

Goodwin says what happens in the future is "up to the utilities," adding that Harvard does not accept the responsibility for finding new energy resources.

"Harvard isn't going to be effected more than any other industry when fuel becomes more scarce than at present," Goodwin adds.

As for alternate types of energy, Goodwin says solar energy is impractical in the Boston area climate. "Payback is in the 20 year range," he says. Goodwin adds Harvard looking into solar energy when building the new athletic complex.

A power plant, which Harvard officials hope will be up by mid-1979, is expected to save energy for the Medical School area. However, experts have questioned how energy-effective the plant will be.

The proposed plant will be constructed 80 per cent underground, and will be as large as a city block.

There is no energy czar at Harvard. Goodwin says, "One of my prime functions is to look at energy conservation, but to say that I'm the sole person is not true," adding, "There are 50 some odd energy monitors" at Harvard.

With energy as important as it is, now may be the time for Harvard to establish a central committee in charge of energy problems if not an energy czar. Perhaps its responsibilities could extend to ther areas of conservation.

B&G is now charged with the responsibility of energy at Harvard. Goodwin thinks energy suggestions could be made centrally, but the committee would have to be limited to recommendations, rather than controlling.

"Each faculty would want to look at its own needs," he says.

Goodwin also says energy problems occur in so many different areas that it is better not to put energy matters into a separate committee, but to leave different branches of B&G and the University in charge of their own needs.

"One has to know the operation before you can make a suggestion," he says.

Goodwin says, "We make recommendations to the Faculty; we're a service department."

An example of this service function of B&G is the way it encourages the separate faculties to join the computer system.

"We're trying to make it known what the benefits are. The benefits vary. They may actually want to go on it. It's not the same advantage in every case." Goodwin adds.

The faculty in charge of each building lets B&G know if it is interested in using the services of the Delta. If it is, a survey is made of how much equipment in the building could be regulated, and how much it would cost to automate the equipment. The faculty then decides if it is cost effective for them to use the Delta system.

Buildings and Grounds is also limited in energy conservation because they buy their steam in bulk, one reason why they cannot recycle for combustion purposes. Now pollution laws exacerbate the problem, Goodwin says.

Since architecture at Harvard ranges from that of Massachusetts Hall, the oldest college dorm in the country, to the modern Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, designed by Corbusier, regulating heating in the different types of buildings poses unique problems.

If you turn the heat up in one part of a building, it can become very cold in another, or vice versa, Mark says.

Although Harvard has established programs to diminish energy waste, there are still shortcomings. And, as they do about any bureaucracy, students sometimes feel a bit skeptical about the whole thihg.

"I usually have a window open; some people don't open their windows because they don't want to waste energy," one South House resident says.

"I'm afraid to ask them to turn it down, the student adds, "because if I did that, then they'd just turn the heat down to about 40."