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

Blake Winter, Cator, Ruma & Associates
Julie Zurakowski, AndersonMasonDale Architects

The National Western Complex (NWC) in Denver, Colorado is the home of the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo; a 10-day annual event that hosts the Western region agricultural leaders. In 2014 the NWC and its partners, which included Colorado State University (CSU) Spur and the City of Denver, embarked on a redevelopment of their campus. The intent of the CSU Spur redevelopment was to create a year-round educational destination comprised of three CSU buildings (Hydro, Terra, and Vida) within the boundary of existing stock show facilities. 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 Terra Building's concept is to focus its space around agricultural products and research. The spaces range from a test kitchen, commercial kitchen open to the public, meat science lab, dairy lab, sensory testing, plant pathology, and even a rooftop greenhouse. One of the big moves that was made in the name of sustainability and efficiency was to leverage the adjacent Hydro building square footage, load diversity, and connecting bridge by omitting a central plant from Terra. By utilizing the Hydro building central energy plant, the two buildings were able to gain economies of scale and load diversity between the two buildings. The Terra building receives heating and chilled water from the Hydro building's heat pump central plant and utilizes the HVAC water to provide conditioning to the dedicated outside air handler, and the recirculating air handler. The spaces in Terra were strategically divided between the two air handlers based on program; labs, kitchens, and dirty areas receive 100% outside air while the remainder of the building recirculates air. The building is equipped with a heat-pipe style heat recovery system to aid in the campus decarbonization effort.

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

  • Explore integrating and showcasing functional research laboratories to promote public outreach and education;
  • Learn about implementing a heat pump chiller plant for a laboratory building, using a campus ambient water loop or a ground source loop;
  • Gain 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 contributes to the effort to achieve net zero solutions.


Blake Winter, PE, is a Mechanical Principal at Cator, Ruma & Associates. His passion for expanding his knowledge of the AEC industry gives him the ability to keep abreast of industry trends and provide invaluable input for the numerous successful laboratory projects he has been a part for research campuses and government applications.

Julie Zurakowski, AIA, is an Architect with Anderson Mason Dale Architects in Denver, Colorado. A Senior Associate with the firm, her focus is on design and technical development, and she served as Project Manager for the recently completed Spur Terra Building.


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