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Tercero 3: Our most sustainable residence halls yet

By Dave Jones on September 23, 2014 in University News


The condensing economizer system, in a nutshell:

Previously, the campus steam plant’s water vapor went directly into the atmosphere, through the boiler stacks. Now, the vapor is diverted by fan into the condensing economizer, where the vapor swirls around three coiled pipelines.

The water in the coiled pipelines is cooler than the water vapor — and that sets up heat transfer, from the swirling vapor to the water in the pipelines.

Two of the pipelines carry water that eventually ends up in the boilers; the hotter the water when it enters the boilers, the less energy is needed to produce steam.

The third coil is part of a closed loop that carries water between the condensing economizer and Tercero 3, where heat is "exchanged" again — this time from the water in the closed loop to fresh water for the sinks and showers, and to the water supply for the space heating systems (in which fans blow air through pipelines of heated water).

Having lost heat, the water in the clsed loop goes back to the steam plant to start the process all over again.

Other “green” highlights:

  • Energy efficiency — Exceeds the state’s Title 24 requirements by more than 48 percent.
  • Inside water — 30 percent reduction.
  • Outside water — Landscaping requires 50 percent less water than baseline.
  • Meters — All buildings are individually metered for water use and all energy systems.
  • Construction waste — 95 percent diverted from landfill.
  • Building materials with recycled content — Minimum of 10 percent (based on cost).
  • Building materials extracted or manufactured within 500 miles of project site — Minimum of 10 percent (based on cost).
  • Low-emitting materials — In selecting adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, flooring systems, composite wood and agrifiber products, the university chose materials that emit zero to low levels of volatile organic chemicals.

The more than 1,300 students in UC Davis’ newest residence halls will be showered with sustainability.


The students, who move in this weekend, will use a water supply that is heated with energy derived from water vapor formerly lost to the atmosphere, through the campus steam plant's boiler stacks.

The vapor also provides the energy to warm the air in the four-story residence halls — seven of them in Tercero Phase 3.

By wringing energy from the vapor, UC Davis is saving hundreds of thousands of therms of natural gas. The heat transfer takes place in a piece of equipment called a condensing economizer. It's at the steam plant, just across the street from the Tercero housing area.

The condensing economizer project saves the campus a total of 511,000 therms of gas annually, for which the campus earned a $511,000 rebate from Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

With this new-to-UC Davis technology, and all of the other “green” features in Tercero’s third phase (see box), UC Davis expects to achieve a gold certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program — and perhaps platinum, the highest rating.

If Tercero Phase 3 achieves platinum, it will be the first residence hall project to win the designation at UC Davis. However, let’s not forget that Student Housing has one platinum certification already, for the Segundo Services Center.  

Student Housing’s last residence hall project, Tercero South 2 (Campbell, Potter and Wall halls), earned a gold certification in LEED’s new-construction category, and the Cuarto Dining Commons rated a gold certification for commercial interior.

Student Housing also has LEED silvers for retrofits to existing buildings: Emerson and Webster halls in the Cuarto housing area. Read more about UC Davis' Green Building Ratings.

“UC Davis Student Housing has a long-standing commitment to sustainability,” said Mike Sheehan, director of Facilities Services in Student Housing. “The Tercero Phase 3 project is our latest demonstration of that commitment. The project also demonstrates great collaboration between campus departments with the utilization of the heat recovery system at the central plant.”

A tree name for each building

Tercero Phase 3 replaces a dozen three-story buildings collectively known as Pierce and Thille halls, first occupied in 1967 and torn down in early 2012 due to poor seismic safety.

Now come the seven new residence halls in a project that cost $88.5 million, including demolition of the old, design of the new, construction and project management.

Each building has a tree name: Currant, Hawthorn, Live Oak, Mahogany, Pine, Scrub Oak and Sequoia (all found on the UC Davis campus, by the way). Not sure what those trees look like? Check them out in frosted-glass renderings that stretch from second floor to top floor at the entrance to each building.

The complex also features three exterior walls of bicycle art: a total of 76 wheels mounted to the walls, making for daylong shadow play. There will be hundreds more wheels in the bike racks — a total of 1,700 spaces.

Inside, Tercero Phase 3 has a base design of 1,182 bed spaces in 540 doubles and 102 singles. For the 2014-15 academic year, 150 rooms have been converted to triples, making the total bed count 1,332.

Besides rooms to live in, Tercero Phase 3 includes a fully equipped lecture hall with 236 seats and six wheelchair spaces. Student Housing, which has never before included such a space in a building project, is making the hall available for general campus use from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The lecture hall is called Scrub Oak Auditorium, based on its location in Scrub Oak Hall.

Related story: The fall quarter will open with a new Memorial Union bus terminal and a realigned Garrod Drive leading to veterinary medicine buildings in the Health Sciences District.

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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,