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Pratt Institute, East Hall Boiler and Plaza Renovation

Pratt Institute is transitioning to a low-carbon thermal energy system. While supporting the transition, Burns rehabilitated the below-ground facility and led renovations of an at-grade student plaza.

Pratt Institute is a world-class and internationally ranked college with programs in art, design, architecture, liberal arts and sciences, and information studies. The Institute’s 25-acre Brooklyn campus features a historic steam-powered electrical generating plant, constructed in 1887 by the Edison Electric Company, and an adjacent boiler plant relied upon today for producing thermal energy.

Working toward a goal to reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2040, Burns supported Pratt with an overhaul of the boiler plant. Designs achieve more energy-efficient steam production, enabling the institute to electrify the district heating system or incorporate low-carbon fuels into their heating mix.

Before undertaking the boiler replacement project, Pratt tasked Burns with leading structural improvements to the underground central plant’s roof, replacing the plaza’s steel and concrete framing, and strengthening critical support columns.

Burns led structural and mechanical improvements to accommodate the boiler plant modernization. Burns is also overseeing a total plaza renovation.

East Hall Plaza Renovation

The central plant’s structural steel framed roof is embedded in vaulted brick masonry and concrete slab. While completing the analysis of the boiler system, Burns was alerted to roof structure deficiencies, including:

  • Spalling of the concrete structural slab
  • Rusting and delamination of structural steel framing
  • Water damage to the steel and brick vaults

The boiler room roof also serves as the main plaza for the East Hall building, located above the steam plant. Burns collaborated with the construction manager to develop a staging plan to fully replace the plaza, reinforce the central plant’s steel columns, and install a future-proofed boiler system.

Pratt engaged Burns as the engineer of record, leading civil, architectural, structural, plumbing and electrical designs for the new East Plaza Deck. The scope involved:

  • Designing placement of new steel framing and boiler system piping within limited vertical space, avoiding interference with existing piping and temporarily supported ductwork
  • Overseeing new landscape architecture features for the renovated plaza, including introduction of planters and a canopy for outdoor learning
  • Installing an additional steel column to provide structural support for a signature tree planter
  • Incorporating a roof access hatch to enable future maintenance and equipment upgrades

Oversight services limited the impact of construction on campus activities and maintained continuous campus heating. East Hall Plaza construction is scheduled to complete in 2024.

Low-Carbon Thermal Energy System Transition 

Significant campus-wide carbon emission reductions are necessary to comply with New York City’s Local Law 97. The legislation imposes legally binding emission limits on most buildings larger than 25,000 square feet.

Burns undertook a comprehensive energy assessment, concluding that conversion to a low-carbon, low-pressure steam system is feasible with accompanying modifications to the thermal distribution system, load reductions, or complete electrification of campus buildings.

To address current heating needs and enable long-term carbon reductions, Burns designed a new boiler plant, incorporating the following efficiency measures:

  • Dual-fired boilers capable of using natural gas, heavy oil, or biodiesel
  • Boiler nozzles capable of accommodating low-pressure steam
  • Boiler stack economizer system that preheats feed water
  • Condensate recovery system, limiting condensate losses with a new deaerator and surge tank
  • State-of-the-art direct digital controls

Burns delivered mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection services. Construction completed in 2023.

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Key Team Member

Jacqueline Haas, PE

Facilities & Infrastructure Project Manager