University of North Dakota Steam Plant

Grand Forks, North Dakota

When the University of North Dakota’s (UND) aging steam plant reached the end of its maintainable life and could no longer serve the future needs of its campus, JLG Architects and Johnson Controls created a long-term solution that celebrates its important operational function. Completed in 2021 through a P3 partnership, UND was able to replace their 110-year-old coal-fired steam plant with a new, more efficient natural gas plant.

JLG helped UND with the planning to relocate the facility to the southwest corner of campus, away from the campus quad but within sight of a major thoroughfare to help inform impactful design. The new footprint is 12,000 SF less and represents the quiet efficiency of a distribution system that will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 40,000 metric tons a year, additionally reducing landfill space from ash produced by the prior plant.

The steam plant’s architecture was designed to respond to the environment by focusing on simplicity in materials, with form and fenestration relating to functions inside the building. Energy and light became the unifying focus, by flooding the plant with natural light during the day and using the translucent façade of the building to illuminate its purpose in the evening. The featured component is the expansive, 23-foot-tall translucent panel that delicately floats over five large 60,000-ton BTU boilers and durable precast panels below. With a logical relocation, energy reduction, and efficient systems, UND’s steam plant is prepared to cost-effectively serve its campus and educate its purpose for decades to come.


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Completion Date


“It is a reflection of innovative problem solving, robust collaboration and visionary leadership, the result of which will benefit generations of North Dakotans.”
– Doug Burgum, Governor of North Dakota