District Energy System

Providing efficient heating for campus and capturing waste heat for reuse...

LEED Gold Central Energy Plant Office
LEED Gold Central Energy Plant Office

The International District Energy Association (IDEA) presented Cornell University's Utilities Department with their 2001 System of the Year Award. By a unanimous vote, the Cornell campus chilled water, central steam, and cogeneration systems were recognized as outstanding systems in the District Energy Industry.

Cornell’s district energy systems produce hot water, steam or chilled water at a central plant and then distribute them through underground pipes to buildings connected to the system. This means that Cornell’s individual buildings do not need boilers, furnaces, chillers or cooling towers. Cornell students, faculty and staff use hot or chilled water to meet their space heating, water heating, processing and air-conditioning needs. Once water is used, it is returned to the central plant to be reheated and rechilled before it’s then recirculated through the closed-loop piping system.

Cornell’s district energy system provides many sustainable benefits to campus, including the following:

  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Enhanced environmental protection
  • Fuel flexibility 
  • Ease of operation and maintenance 
  • Reliability 
  • Comfort and convenience for customers 
  • Decreased life-cycle costs 
  • Decreased building capital costs 
  • Improved architectural design flexibility


On Campus