Dear Howard University Community,

The following campus update contains information related to the current state and future plans for modernizing Howard University’s steam plant.

At this time, Howard University main campus and Howard University hospital are being supplied with steam by one permanent boiler and two temporary boilers. One temporary boiler is fully dedicated to supplying steam to the hospital. The state of the steam plant is stable but fragile. We are still facing significant challenges as ambient temperatures fluctuate. In addition, the temporary boilers are sensitive to power surges and spikes. These events occur quite frequently in the District of Columbia, and we have experienced two incidents where power surges have temporarily impacted, but not crippled, our steam distribution.

In addition, temporary boilers are very sensitive to hard water. These boilers must beblown down three times per work shift and are flushed every two weeks to prevent scale from building up on the water tubes of the boiler. Temporary boilers, although salient to our operations at this time, are not long-term solutions for plant stability. We are procuring additional temporary boilers that will be housed near our residence halls, athletic gym, and cafeterias, in anticipation of a planned maintenance shutdown. Aesthetically, the temporary boilers are not a decorative asset, but they are vital at this time. We are avidly working to phase them out as quickly as possible. A timeline will be shared once the detailed assessment is completed in four weeks.

There are multiple pipe fractures within our steam tunnel. We are planning a maintenance shut down over the spring break holiday to remedy as many of these pipe fractures as possible, without disrupting business operations. Our condensate return systems are operating at approximately 35–40 % efficiency, well below our target. As a result, there are multiple steam plumes, escaping through manholes, campus wide. At the site of the plume, the steam’s pressure and temperature are less than those found in the plant, however, for your safety, we are asking pedestrians to avoid walking over, or standing on manholes, where steam is being emitted. Caution tape and barriers have been placed around manholes that have larger plumes and streets with low visibility due to larger steam plumes have been temporarily blocked from vehicular traffic. If there is a manhole without proper signage or a street that is recommended for closure, please contact Thompson Facilities Services at (202) 806-1000 to report it.

We have engaged a company, Engie, who is charged with assessing our steam plant operations and equipment, and our steam tunnel in order to inform decision making related to steam plant modernization, cost, utility master planning, asset monitoring, and sustainability.

Potential funding sources for the steam plant project include:

  • Emergency government appropriation
  • Other government sources
  • Insurance coverage
  • Steam plant privatization
  • Reprioritization of capital expenditures
  • Philanthropy

We will continue to maintain transparency as we commission the assessment of the steam plant. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with various levels of university leadership during this process.

Excellence in Truth and Service,

Tashni-Ann Dubroy, Ph.D., MBA
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Thursday, February 15, 2018