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Blackstone Steam Plant

Blackstone Steam Plant

Bruner/Cott’s work with resilience includes protection of critical infrastructure. Harvard Engineering & Utilities Department commissioned us to evaluate risks to the University’s central steam plant. Windows had aged since 1930 and 1962 (90 and 60-years!) and increasing temperatures and humidity now boost frequency and intensity of hurricane-force storms with heightened wind velocities, storm duration, and danger of water penetration flooding boilers.

Harvard University
Cambridge, MA
Completed: 2023 30,000 sf
Photography by © Richard Mandelkorn

The Blackstone Steam Plant was built in 1901 as Cambridge Electric Light Company, enlarged in 1930 with additional boilers, and enlarged again in 1962 when most steel and all wood windows on the street facades were replaced with aluminum with reduced structural support.

Bruner/Cott studied the attributes of previous storm systems and models for sea level rise impacts along the Charles River. Simpson, Gumpertz + Heger designed steel bracing that differs widely among openings tp support individual windows and louvers. Extensive masonry repairs embraced brick, granite, and terra cotta with highly variable conditions within each façade.

The plant continued to operate throughout the project as windows were removed and new glazing and louver systems were woven through the plant’s complex interior. The coordination required among design, engineering, and installation was at a level rarely encountered with historic buildings.