Valley City State University Steam Plant

Valley City, North Dakota

Valley City State University (VCSU) is saving money while powering the campus into the next generation. The highly energy-efficient facility designed by JLG – a replacement for the campus’s outdated and unsafe plant – sheds light on the inner workings of power steam production to provide a learning opportunity for students and the surrounding community.

The site is on a critical corner of the campus, facing the main college thoroughfare and the Sheyenne River; urging the importance of a design that would be more than a pre-engineered box with a smokestack. The curtainwall, along with clerestory windows and strategically placed punched openings, engages the streetscape and celebrates the facility’s use while bringing ample natural light to all workspaces. The coal facility and gas facility are in separate areas of the building, and the exterior architecture expresses this divide both in building massing and metal panel texture and color. The plant can use either gas or coal depending on what’s available and what is most cost-effective, allowing the campus to save money on fuel costs.

The facility uses curtainwall with removable sections to allow for the installation, maintenance needs, large vehicle access, and future replacement of the coal and gas boilers in their entirety. The building takes advantage of passive cooling through the design of its primary roof form. North Dakota lignite coal freezes in bins over the winter, which jams the tanks, and so this high roof not only allows VCSU to store coal indoors in tall coal storage tanks, but it also allows natural ventilation through a series of clerestory louvers on the north face. The coal boiler uses state-of-the-art filtration and emissions mitigation systems to reduce the pollution caused by coal ignition.

Additionally, the facility was designed with the intent that the building and systems within could be directly connected to a future activated carbon facility. This future facility will use cutting-edge technology in partnership with the University of North Dakota for a sustainable and cost-efficient operation.

Awards & Certifications

  • 2019 – AIA North Dakota: Merit Award

Completion Date


"This is a beautiful, functional, state-of-the-art facility that will serve our campus for years to come."
– Wesley Wintch, Vice President for Business Affairs