Stanford University

Stanford Energy Systems Innovations

Carbon footprint reduced by 68%, potable water use by over 125Mgals/yr.

As prime consultant and lead engineer of the Stanford Energy Systems Innovations (SESI), Affiliated Engineers analyzed energy production options, evaluated capital and operating costs, and assessed financial and energy risk through 2050. We then designed and directed implementation of SESI’s five major components – heat recovery/TES plant, OSHPD plant, new piping distribution, building conversions, and 100MVA substation – through multiple jurisdictional authorities to operation within five years.

Designed for a peak load of 28,000 tons of cooling and 350 mmbtu/hr heating, the new systems replace a fossil fuel CHP plant with electric drive heat recovery chillers that – along with standard chillers and gas-fired hot water generators – capitalize on daily heating and cooling overlap to meet 88% of the campus and hospital heating demand with recovered waste heat. 2Mgals of hot water and 10Mgals chilled water Thermal Energy Storage provide load shifting to off peak electric rates and accommodate high demand periods. SESI is 70% more efficient than the previous system.

A new 100 MVA, 60kV:12.47kV substation allows flexible management of Stanford's energy supply platform, which is 65% derived from renewable sources. The Central Energy Facility (CEF) administrative buildings incorporate natural ventilation, heating and cooling radiant floor and ceiling sail systems, and phase change materials; combined with the 175kW of installed PV on the CEF trellis these building achieve NZE operation.

Conversion of 155 campus buildings from steam to hot water was accomplished using new heat exchanger stations at each building and over 22 miles of a direct buried, highly insulated, low loss hot water piping system conforming to European Standard EN253. SESI became operational in 2015 and has since exceeded its projected energy savings.


Palo Alto, CA


  • Rutherford + Chekene - Structural Engineer
  • ZGF Architects LLP - Architect of Record

Building Size

142,100 sq. ft.


  • 2017 COTE (Committee on the Environment) Top Ten
  • 2017 AIA Institute Honor Awards
  • 2016 Global Best Project, Green Project
  • 2015 Editors' Choice, Best of the Best
  • 2015 Best of the Best in Energy/Industrial Award, National
  • 2015 Best Project in Energy/Industrial Award, Regional
  • 2015 Citation Award

These heat recovery chillers, along with conventional chillers and gas-fired hot water generators, capitalize on the daily heating and cooling overlap to heat the campus and university hospital with recovered energy. The campus-wide energy system overhaul, converting steam to hot water, utilizing heat recovery and thermal storage, reduces the carbon footprint by 68% and potable water use by 18%.

campus heating load met by heat recovery

Two million gallons of hot water and 10 million gallons of chilled water Thermal Energy Storage accommodate high demand periods and balancing of heating and cooling loads with the heat recovery chillers.

thermal energy storage

From its NZE administration building to the visual expression of its engineering elements, the CEF is a testimony to the vision and values of a world-leading university committed to sustainable planning and living.

22 miles
new hot water distribution piping
new substation

Project Leaders