Montpelier District Heat Plant

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Clients Location

Montpelier, VT


15,000 sf

Category Awards
  • AIA VT Excellence in Architecture Design – Merit Award

Consultants Photographers
  • Gary Hall Photography

Thoughtfully Designed Public Infrastructure

This unique public-private partnership, a result of the Capital District Master Plan, developed a central biomass fueled power plant, providing a heat source for all state buildings and the entire Montpelier City Downtown District.

The plant is located in the heart of the State Capitol Complex and at the edge of the historic downtown.  This unique project consists of two wood chip fired boilers utilizing a rapidly renewable local resource and local labor.  It is anticipated that this new central facility will reduce state/city emissions by 11 tons per year and decrease oil usage by 300,000 gallons per year.  The 15,000 sf plant replaces an existing and outdated state plant.  The only portions of the existing plant that remain are the reconfigured fuel storage bunkers and a historic masonry chimney.

The architecture of the plant is a direct response to the technical needs of the advanced equipment, the desire to make visible to the community “where their energy comes from”, and the desire to reflect in a contemporary manner the essence of a power plant yet protect the important view sheds to the Statehouse. The building features large areas of glass facing the main city entry thoroughfare and riverfront recreation path.  This, along with a covered viewing porch, allows for direct visual access to the workings of the system.  To mitigate heat gain from these large areas of south facing glass, a carefully calibrated solar screen is integrated into the facade.  The screen, constructed of corten steel to reflect the adjacent river bridges, allows for visual transparency yet blocks unwanted heat gain.  Sectionally, the building is set up to draw cool combustion air from the north facade and evacuate heat with high louvers on the south facade.  Some of the excess heat is used to temper the interior of the plant and dry the wood chips.

“The project raised the bar for buildings of this type. It’s wonderful to see the celebration of industry and a better source of energy for this area put on display. It's the "Pompidou Centre" of Montpelier, but with perhaps an even stronger underlying purpose for its community. The approachability and transparency of public infrastructure within proximity of the State Capitol is compelling.”

– AIA Vermont Design Award Jury