Harvard’s District Energy Facility showcases a new infrastructure typology

The building is currently under construction.

March 14, 2018 |
The DEF at night

Rendering courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates

The 58,000-sf Harvard University Allston Campus District Energy Facility (DEF) will provide electricity, hot water, and chilled water to the Allston campus. The building represents a new infrastructure typology dubbed the cogeneration plant.

Designed by Leers Weinzapfel Associates, the DEF uses a compact cubic form with rounded corners that allows for maximum flexibility of future development and is a visible demonstration of cost-effective sustainability in building. The facility is wrapped in metal fins that form a screen around it, with “petal-like” elements set at varying degrees of openness to reveal or conceal the various equipment areas within.


Harvard's DEF as seen from across the riverRendering courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates.


The fins are most open at the building’s corner entry and round the thermal energy storage tank. They are most closed on the service sides. The fins are raised above the ground on the public face of the building to reveal the main equipment hall to passersby.

The DEF’s transparent interior allows it to be used as a teaching tool for the university’s new science and engineering campus. People can observe the cogeneration plant’s complicated system of chillers, boilers, piping, pumps and flues, and electrical tools.


Rendering of Harvard's DEFRendering courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates.


RMF Engineering designed the DEF’s equipment systems, which are efficient, resilient, and adaptable to the campus’s future needs. A chilled water reserve tank provides thermal energy to support efficient equipment use and equipment elevated above flood levels supports resiliency for continuous independent operation of the facility, even in the event of electrical grid failure. 

The project is slated for completion in 2019.


Rendering courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates.

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