Leers Weinzapfel Associates - The Ohio State University East Regional Chilled Water Plant
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The Ohio State University East Regional Chilled Water Plant

Leers Weinzapfel Associates

Production  /  Completed
Leers Weinzapfel Associates
On a prominent site between campus and city, this critically important and iconic large infrastructure facility fits comfortably among its smaller academic neighbors, preserves an important green space, and frames the gateway for a new campus entry. The use of metal materials creates an important bridge between the infrastructure nature of this project and its campus setting.

A sculptural solution for the 15,000 ton chilled water plant is integrated into the arts sculpture green area along the university’s east campus edge. The result is an elegant approach that fits well with the urban site and its surrounding context.

The structure’s scale, which responds to the older brick buildings around it, is modulated by its composition of two offset volumes. A lower, two-story, glazed rectangular volume housing six chillers is veiled and diaphanous on the exterior, with semi-transparent views from the interior looking out. A repeating pattern of clear glass and translucent fritted glass in three frit densities and four sizes offers a consistent variability.

The upper level; a lifted square volume housing six cooling towers, is open to the sky, and uses perforated metal walls of resin-based, coated aluminum to provide a cost-effective water cooling tower enclosure. The walls are designed with two perforated densities, and together with narrow open slots achieve the combined 50% open area for ventilation required for the equipment. The perforated copper-colored aluminum enclosure serves as a new interpretation of the brick used prolifically on this and many other US college campuses, adding aesthetic variety to its built surroundings.

Designed to support the densely packed equipment layout, both the upper and lower volume respond to unique engineering requirements, creating zones of machine activity. A linear zone is created within the lower, two-story enclosed rectangular volume with mezzanine, and a squared zone within the upper screened volume.

During the day changing sunlight, moving clouds, shadows, and reflections transform both volumes. This subtly pervasive quality of change provides an aura of activity in an otherwise quiet servant building.

Both volumes are gently illuminated at night to provide site lighting for the surrounding pedestrian zones and to continue the dialogue between the forms and their contrasting materials. The glowing crystalline lower volume is illuminated from the inside, while the lifted metallic volume above is illuminated with an upper squared halo.

The new chilled water plant will significantly save energy on campus and improve overall campus central plant operational efficiency. The building is targeted for LEED Certification.


 Columbus, OH
 The Ohio State University
 2152 mq
 Leers Weinzapfel Associates, Design Architect; GBBN Architects, Associate Architect
 Jane Weinzapfel, Principal-in-Charge; Joe Raia, Project Manager; Juliet Chung, Design Team; Chien Hung-Yang, Design Team
 Shook Construction
 Structural, RMF Engineering; MEP, RMF Engineering; Civil, Korda; Landscape, Reed Hilderbrand; Lighting, Francis Krahe & Associates
 Brad Feinknopf


Leers Weinzapfel Associates is a Boston based firm with national design distinction. Our work lies at the intersection of architecture, urban design, and infrastructure. Recognized for our inventiveness in dramatically complex commissions, we meet these challenges with uncommon design clarity, elegance, and refinement.
Widely recognized with over 90 national and regional awards, our work has been published worldwide and exhibited nationwide. In 2007, the American Institute of Architects honored us with the Firm Award, the highest distinction the AIA bestows on an architecture practice.

Our firm is led by a close knit group of individuals whose vision, skills, and dedication shape its core values. Founding Principals Andrea Leers and Jane Weinzapfel together with Principals Josiah Stevenson and Tom Chung share overall guidance of the firm.


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