Santa Clara University wanted an hvac system that was reliable and comfortable, yet unobtrusive.

Santa Clara University admistrators asked that the hvac system components be concealed and quiet.
Located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University provides an oasis of calm beauty and traditional academic achievement. The highly ranked Jesuit Catholic school is celebrating its 150th anniversary and is the oldest institution of higher learning in California, with an enrollment of 4,300 undergraduates and 3,050 graduate students.

The architecture of the buildings follows a unified visual California mission theme and reflects its roots in the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, the church that still forms the centerpiece of the campus. Even the newest buildings are adobe tan in color and have red tile roofs. Exotic palm trees dot the landscape along with olive, avocado, sycamore, and citrus trees, many more than 150 years old.

The university wanted an hvac system that was reliable and comfortable, yet unobtrusive. Ed Walsh, hvac team leader, said “The university understands the importance of controlling temperature, humidity and ventilation levels. We installed the cooling towers and chillers in such a way that they don’t intrude on the eye, the ear, or the landscape.”

Walsh points out that the campus includes approximately 50 major buildings, nearly all of them air conditioned. In total, the campus has approximately 3,700 tons of cooling capacity. The cooling plant consists of eight centrifugal chillers totaling 2,025 tons, four air-cooled chillers totaling 680 tons and 10 reciprocating chillers totaling 750 tons. In addition to the chilled water capacity, campus buildings have about 200 tons of local DX and water-source heat pump cooling.

An architectural enclosure surrounds a Trane model RTAA aie-cooled screw chiller.


In the development of the campus hvac plant, the university places emphasis on equipment standardization. “This provides several advantages,” noted Walsh, “including simplified training, reduced parts and supplies inventories, and standardized service schedules.” Commonly used are Bell & Gossett pumps, BAC cooling towers, Petterson Kelly boilers and Bellimo actuators. For centrifugal chillers, they have chosen Trane’s CentTraVac Model CVHE. Air-cooled chillers are Trane Series R Model RTAA.

The emphasis on system design to minimize intrusion on campus life extends to the chiller plants as well. The energy centers are typically located in basement areas and steps are taken to isolate any sounds from the chillers, boilers or pumps. The low sound levels of the Trane CenTraVac chillers are another reason why they were chosen. Cooling towers and air-cooled chillers on the grade level are located in architectural enclosures that match adjacent buildings in appearance and virtually eliminate acoustic impact on adjacent sidewalks and buildings.

Where equipment is located on building rooftops, it is also enclosed in architectural enclosures to hide it from view and reduce sound levels. The emphasis is always on equipment that performs reliably and yet unobtrusively. New, efficient, high-tech equipment has to blend in quietly, almost to the point it is unnoticed while doing its job.

Another current project on campus is renovation of the 1975-built Leavey athletic and assembly facility. The original building had an air-supported, Teflon-coated fiberglass roof that had developed numerous leaks and had reached the end of its useful life. A new scoreboard, bleachers, a 30-foot high glass wall enclosure, and a larger swimming pool are on tap.

The Leavey project also includes a redesign of the building’s hvac plant, including additional air-cooled chiller capacity, and a new ventilation and air distribution system that includes eight 5X5 foot VAV boxes, all tied into the campus-wide Trane Tracer Summit energy management system.