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Relics of a Bygone Era Coming Down Over Winter Break

The removal of campus smokestacks furthers AU’s green initiatives.

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The two 100-foot smokestacks behind Asbury Hall are coming down over winter break.

The two 100-foot smokestacks behind Asbury Hall—a landmark on the AU campus skyline for more than 60 years and the last relics of a time when AU’s central heating plant burned oil—are coming down over winter break.

It’s the final step in the university’s conversion to a low-temperature hot water heating system that uses natural gas and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 40 percent.

"As the first university in the District of Columbia to convert its campus from steam heating to hot water, the smokestack removal serves as visual reminder of how AU continues to lead by example through further reduction of its carbon footprint in support of President Burwell’s ‘We Are Still In’ pledge as well as local energy and sustainability initiatives," said Brontè Burleigh-Jones, chief financial officer, vice president and treasurer, Office of Finance and Treasurer.

AU became the first urban campus, first research university, and the largest higher education institution in the United States to achieve carbon neutrality in 2018. The university announced its third five-year sustainability action plan in April, following 2010 and 2014 plans. The plan’s ambitious 45 new goals, in the areas of engagement, environment, and administration, align with climate work being done by DC and the United Nations and dovetails with the District’s progressive Sustainable DC plan’s framework for new construction, energy, and water usage.

As for the smokestacks, contractors will remove them brick-by-brick from the top down, deconstructing the east one first. To minimize traffic disruption and contain dust and debris, they will push the debris into each smokestack’s chimney and take it away from an opening in its base. A portion of the brick and concrete will be recycled in compliance with DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs regulations, and the site will be restored with asphalt.

“The removal of the smokestacks will not only be a visible and aesthetic improvement, it also symbolizes AU’s continued move forward with its green energy efficiency goals,” said Juan Allen, energy conservation and efficiency manager, Facilities Management.