Like someone lightly placing a Jenga piece on a tower, crews working on UND’s steam plant carefully lowered one of the plant’s five new boilers on Tuesday, Aug. 13.

The 72,000-pound boilers are a part of the new steam plant being built on campus and will be installed throughout this week. The installation of the boilers is a huge step in the construction process, said Brad Estadt, project executive for Johnson Controls.

“It’s a little bit like our Christmas morning getting to this step,” he said.

The $75 million facility is being built without the use of state funds -- the result of a partnership between UND and Johnson Controls. The facility will be operated and maintained by Johnson Controls under a long-term capital lease agreement that will last around 40 years.

The new plant will be completed by spring 2020, with the old plant shut down by that fall. Estadt said the project is slightly ahead of schedule. Crews worked to break through several feet of frozen ground in mid-March to get the project started, Estadt said. Work has continued since then, with boiler installation the next big step in the process. Additionally, new distribution lines are in the process of being installed to buildings on campus.

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Almost all of the contractors working on the project are local to the Grand Forks-area or North Dakota, including Grand Forks-based Community Contractors, Lunseth Plumbing & Heating and Opp Construction, among many others.

Estadt said that having local crews, who have worked on projects on UND’s campus, is important to Johnson Controls. It allows crews to work in their home cities, add to the Grand Forks economy and get home in time for dinner.

Some of Estadt's crew have even moved to the area themselves since taking on the project.

Annually, Johnson Controls says the project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40,000 metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 74 square miles of forest -- essentially the size of Grand Forks and Fargo combined. The project also will reduce landfill waste by 3,200 metric tons of ash.

The current steam plant, which was built in 1909, is a critical support building and is in the worst condition of UND's buildings, facilities head Mike Pieper told the a state higher education committee last year.

Other projects

Construction crews are also busy on other projects throughout campus this summer.

Renovations continue on the J. Lloyd Stone House, which will soon be named after Hal and Kathy Gershman who donated $3 million to redo the original president’s home.

The house will become a meeting place for graduate and international students once completed.

Brian Larson, director of construction management at UND, said renovations are going well on the building so far. A new, deeper basement is being installed, interior and electrical work have been ongoing as well, he said.

“We’re looking to be substantially complete with the project sometime this fall and then, after that, there will be new furniture moved in,” he said. “It’s such a historically important building …. the university as well as the donors have been stressing the importance of doing everything right and making sure it’s quality work at every step.”

The top two floors will be used for quiet space for graduate and international students to study. The basement will be renovated for more group work and include space for a small kitchen.

On the house's main floor, the Gershmans are aiming to restore its parlor, music room and dining room, which could be used for small receptions.

UND’s Chester Fritz Library is also under renovation this summer.

“That’s coming along really well,” Larson said.

Part of the project is completed, Larson said, noting university IT services have moved into the lower level of the building. Crews are now on phase two of the project, which includes improved circulation and the north entrance.

The south entrance will continue to be the main entrance into the library until construction is complete, Larson said.