CSU SPUR Campus at the National Western Complex Targets Carbon Neutral (Hydro Building)

Sean Convery, Cator, Ruma & Associates
Jennifer Cordes, Hord Coplan Macht

The National Western Complex (NWC) in Denver, Colorado, is the hub for the Western Regionís annual Stock Show. The NWC embarked on a redevelopment of their campus, and partnered with Colorado State University (CSU) to create the SPUR Campus, an educational destination comprised of three CSU buildings (Hydro, Terra, and Vida) nestled among the traditional Stock Show facilities. NWCís goal is to provide an extremely low carbon footprint. This resulted in a central utility system that recovers heat from a main sewer pipe from the city of Denver to generate an Ambient Water Loop that serves all the buildings on campus for use with heat pumps.

The CSU Hydro Building is a mixed-use building consisting of institutional research laboratories, municipal quality and research laboratories, leased research laboratories, teaching laboratories, and high-bay laboratories, and include microbiology and chemistry laboratories focusing on water research. The Hydro Building is a collaboration between researchers from CSU and Denver Water to address water issues facing the region, country, and world. The building includes a three-story atrium with a smoke control system, conference center, cafť, interior demonstration areas, and an exterior living lab around the building for research and demonstration of low impact design. The mechanical system includes a heat pump chiller plant with heat rejected to the campus ambient loop and is sized to also serve the Terra Building via a bridge that connects the two buildings. This heat pump chiller plant generates heating water and chilled water simultaneously with the ability to swap the energy internally to the building before having to reject the heat to the campus loop. The all-electric heat pump plant removes any need for gas boilers in the building. In addition, the laboratory ventilation system is served by a high efficiency intelligent energy recovery system, with a one-coil design to further the sustainability of this building.

The unique ambient water loop used in conjunction with the heat pump chiller plant is very similar to how a ground source system functions. This presentation can provide useful information for similar systems that can be used to de-carbonize laboratory buildings.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about integrating and showcasing functional research laboratories to promote public outreach and education;
  • Explore concepts for implementing a heat pump chiller plant for a laboratory building, and using a campus ambient water loop or a ground source loop;
  • Have more knowledge about increased system efficiency using an Intelligent High Efficiency Energy Recovery System; and
  • Understand how integration and collaboration between different design and construction teams can contribute to the effort to achieve net zero solutions.


Sean Convery, PE, is a Principal at Cator, Ruma & Associates and President of the Colorado I2SL Chapter. His 27 years of mechanical design experience includes energy-efficient mechanical systems for research labs and higher education campuses. He has been involved in the design of over 100 lab projects, many of them Bio-Safety Level 3 (BSL-3).

Jennifer Cordes leads the Higher Education Studio for Hord Coplan Macht. With 25+ years of experience, she provides design leadership for HCM's most complex projects, facilitating an interactive process that focuses on high-performing designs that bring pride to the institution through contextual relevance, functionality, and energy efficiency.


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