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Swarthmore College, Thermal Distribution System Assessment and Redesign

Burns is assisting the college in its transition to a zero-emission thermal energy distribution system.

Swarthmore College is a residential undergraduate college located outside Philadelphia. To achieve the college’s 2035 carbon-neutrality goal, Swarthmore is shifting away from on-site fossil fuel consumption. Campus buildings will instead be heated through a combination of ground-source heat pumps and heat-recovery chillers through new low-temperature hot water (LTHW) and chilled water distribution systems.

Transitioning Swarthmore’s district energy system will require large-scale redevelopment of campus utilities. To help prepare the college for an overhaul of their heating and cooling infrastructure, Burns performed an assessment and redesign of the main thermal-distribution tunnel connecting to the college’s new central utility plant.

Design services include:

  • Developing a detailed 3-D model of nearly 9,000-square-feet of campus utilities, including proposed routing of new electrical and mechanical systems within the narrow tunnel network.
  • Conceptualizing layout of the LTHW distribution system, including interconnections with the new central plant and existing campus distribution loops.
  • Designing structural supports for chilled water, steam, and LTHW systems.
  • Producing a phasing plan for tunnel construction activities.

Burns supports colleges and universities meet their carbon-neutrality-goals, providing custom solutions for energy and economic analysis; electrical, mechanical and structural assessments and design; and resilient power infrastructure design and oversight.

Photo credit: “A picture of Swarthmore College’s Parrish Hall in Swarthmore, PA” by Kungming2, licensed under CC BY 3.0.


Swarthmore, PA


Swarthmore College


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