Massachusetts Institute of Technology Chilled Water Plant Expansion

Chilled Water Plant Expansion

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

4,400 gsf



The expansion of the Chilled Water Plant facility substantially increases the campus-wide central utility capacity of an original 1960’s two-story chiller plant. The addition houses a 5,000-ton steam absorption chiller at the main floor level, with associated pumps and equipment at the basement level. The acoustical glass exterior wall displays the entire colorful array of utility systems – machines, piping, and maintenance cranes.


The transparency of the chilled water plant addition, along with the end wall treatment, with its brightly colored metal wall and sculptural exit stair, defines the end of the utility complex and marks an important pedestrian path across nearby railroad tracks to a developing area of the campus. The materials – aluminum, steel, glass, and concrete – complement the existing utility complex and express the industrial character of the building. The design of the customized curtainwall fa├žade relates to the adjacent building’s mullion lines, yet at the same time distinguishes this latest addition from the older structures. Constructed of colorfully painted light steel framing and woven wire mesh, the temporary egress stair creates an interesting sculptural composition of elements serving utilitarian purposes.


The monumental expanse of the main chiller hall, with its extensive natural light and lofty height, is reminiscent of the great industrial plants and water works of the 19th century. The building provides an efficient, well-lighted, 24-hour working environment for plant staff, a lively streetscape, and a welcome beacon throughout the night.