The Depths of USU: Steam Tunnels

By Hailey Reutzel

BluePrint Contributor

Photo by Hailey Reutzel

When walking across Utah State’s campus, few realize that there is an extensive tunnel system literally underfoot. These tunnels are used to heat and cool many of the buildings throughout campus. The work that goes into keeping these tunnels maintained and powering Utah State is essential to every student’s experience at Utah State. I was given an exclusive tour by Stanley Kane, a university architect and the USU director of operations, who gave me a tour of some of the impressive systems that keep Utah State running.

Before going into the tunnels, I did not know what to expect. I was impressed by how clean and accessible the tunnels are. The tunnels are 10 feet by 10 feet with pipes paralleling the sides, leaving a 4-foot by 7-foot clear walkway.Kane said these pipes are engineered to withstand hot and cold temperatures as they work against Logan’s hot and cold weather to keep buildings at agreeable temperatures. In the winter, the computer labs still need to be cooled,so the cooling system is used year round. Steam and condensate pipes line the tunnels, carrying steam that keeps Utah State warm, while condensate pipes carry cooled water that keep the school cool.

Constructing these utility tunnels took 150 specifically engineered trench boxes, Kane said, creating a national record in use of trench boxes. Trench boxes are large structures that allow the construction of these large utility tunnels.The tunnels heat more than 39 buildings, and wereoriginally1.2 miles long. There have been extensions connecting the tunnels to the new agriculture building and the library that have made it longer still.

Kane said Utah State has several massive features that put normal water heaters to shame, including swamp coolers and condensate tanks, which work like an enormous refrigerator. There are also acid tanks that are used as water softeners. The engine that heats Utah State is the equivalent of an airplane.

Wandering into the tunnels is not a good idea, and anyone who is really curious about how Utah State continues to run can be given a tour “within reason,”  according to Kane. A steam leak or any other malfunction could lead to serious harm to someone wandering unsupervised through these tunnels. Rest assured that Utah State is well-managed, and what lies right under your feet keeps is an extensive system that keeps Utah State running smoothly.


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