Steam Distribution System Upgrade
Washington State University
Pullman, WA

Construction Cost: $6.9 Million

Award: 2006 American Council of Engineering Companies’ Washington State Chapter Silver Award

Wood Harbinger’s design saved Washington State University $2 Million.


Heating for Washington State University’s Pullman campus is provided by a central steam plant connected to 120 campus buildings through more than 18 miles of century-old steam and condensate distribution piping in 6.5 miles of tunnel. Washington State University called on Wood Harbinger to evaluate and optimize the system, to provide for growth, and to integrate the system with a new energy plant located on the opposite side of campus from the existing energy plant.

Wood Harbinger first completed an extensive survey of the steam distribution system. The information gathered contributed to the development of an innovative solution to integrate the new and existing infrastructure and reuse existing steam distribution resources. Wood Harbinger’s design entailed converting a storage vessel at the old steam plant into a campus condensate receiver, adding pumps for automatic transfer of steam condensate to the new energy plant, and consolidating the separate 200 psi high pressure and 60 psi low pressure distribution systems into a single 100 psi system. Consolidating the two steam distribution systems saved money, minimized disruption and waste in terms of materials and construction schedule, and provided Washington State University with a more maintainable and operable system.

The project demonstrates the value of detailed fieldwork and applying fresh, radical thinking to infrastructure projects. Washington State University saved $2,000,000 of scarce capital resources, received a more manageable steam distribution system, and, in the words of Richard Zilar, P.E., Project Manager for the University, “…established Washington State University as a model for creative problem solving in similar campus infrastructure systems.”