Halifax Thermal Plant Renewal


Dalhousie operates a large central heating and cooling plant and a district (DE) network which together currently services all three Halifax campuses as well as adjacent properties (ie Kings, NRC, Law Courts). This system provides heat for 95% of Dalhousie's Halifax facilities, chilled water for space cooling to some major buildings on Studley and Carleton campuses and an electrical distribution network. Most of this central heating and cooling equipment was installed in the early 1970s. Many elements of the central plant are at end-of-life. Campus growth during this 50-year period has eliminated any redundancy originally built into the system. Peak steam demand on the plant is 96% of the capacity of the two existing boilers, leaving no redundancy in case of boiler failure. Planning for a plant upgrade began in 2012 with an assessment of several options. Following extensive analysis, the decision was to replace current equipment and expand capacity to reduce risk associated with failure of a single piece of equipment.


Given the situation described above, a project was developed to meet the following goal:

  • To provide a reliable, centrally located source of thermal heating and cooling in a long-term, cost efficient manner while achieving campus sustainability objectives.
  • The central plant was originally designed to house four boilers, but only housed two. The additional space has been used for trade shops for Facilities Management for decades (carpentry, paint, welding, access control and instrumentation). These functions needed a new home to make space available for new heating and cooling equipment. An expansion to the existing Oxford Street warehouse was designed to house these shops.

The major equipment needed in the plant includes:

  • Two 85,000 lbs/hr steam boilers. One existing boiler will be removed, and one will be kept for redundancy.
  • Two 1,150 ton electric chillers. One 1,670 ton absorption chiller will remain, and one electric chiller will be removed.
  • Two rooftop mounted, induced draft, cross flow evaporative cooling towers.
  • One Deaerator
  • Various pumps, variable frequency drives, transformer and electrical switchgear

Project overview

Location: 1236 Henry Street, Halifax, NS

Budget: $40M

Design Consultants:

FVB Energy Inc. in association with Dillon Consulting (Central Plant)

FBM Architects (Oxford Street Warehouse)


Construction Manager: Ellis Don Corporation (boilers, chillers and balance of Plant)

General Contractors:

Black and Macdonald (cooling tower and roof replacement)

Bird Construction (Oxford Street Warehouse)

Construction Start: Fall of 2018

Construction Completion: 2022


Construction Updates

The Oxford Street warehouse expansion was completed in 2019.

The cooling towers on the roof of the central plant were exposed to weather and were constantly requiring maintenance. This replacement was prioritized and Black and Macdonald successfully installed new equipment on the roof of the building and then replaced the roof membrane. This work was finalized in summer of 2019.

The age of the existing equipment quickly caught up to the team when one of the two chillers failed in 2019 and required speedy replacement. The failed chiller was removed and two new chillers were installed in 2019 under management of Ellis Don.

Two new boilers arrived in spring 2022.