University Facilities Management: How to Heat a University

University Facilities Management: How to Heat a University

University campuses feature several buildings and departments that all have different heating requirements. This article will explore the range of heating solutions traditionally used in universities, and the challenges facility managers face when heating today’s learning institutions. We’ll also examine what impact a modular water-tube steam boiler heating system can have on campuses.


Any university facilities management department faces several challenges when trying to heat a campus, chief among them is the increasing drive for efficiency and sustainability. Let’s take a look at some of these top challenges:

  • Sustainability

Like most modern institutions, universities are under pressure to become more sustainable, using energy-efficient heating systems to reduce their carbon footprint and emissions. To do this, universities replace outdated heating solutions with systems designed with sustainability in mind.

  • Safety

University heating systems need to pose minimal safety risks to staff and students. Not only should your boiler be equipped with pressure overload safeguards, but easier maintenance and operation can reduce injury on the job.

  • Energy Costs

Balancing the books of an energy budget is a major challenge that isn’t helped by old-fashioned and inefficient heating systems. Electric systems especially can become quite costly to operate or to replace when they “burn out” in a short life cycle.

  • Fluctuating Demands

The load demands on university heating systems can vary greatly, from a cold winter morning to a beautiful summer day. Any heating solution needs to be able to efficiently cope with these fluctuating demands.

  • Maintenance and Reliability

Some heating systems can require expensive yearly maintenance to keep them in optimal conditioning. Many older solutions have inconsistent reliability, leading to annoying downtime.

  • Space and Storage

Powering a larger campus has historically required a larger heating system. Some types, like furnaces, can take up a lot of space on campus. Storage space for gas tanks is also a major challenge.


Several heating solutions are used in universities with varying degrees of efficiency. Let’s review some of the main types used over the ages for their respective pros and cons.

1. Electric Panel Heaters

Electric panel heaters are slim radiator-like panels that plug into a power outlet. These can be used as single units in dorm rooms or as multiple panels in a lecture hall. Some also come with a booster switch to give occupants brief periods of extra heat.

Electric Panel Heater Pros

  • Cheap and very easy to install
  • Don’t need a lot of maintenance
  • Safe and slim, allowing for extra room space

Electric Panel Heater Cons

  • Electricity can be expensive
  • Any loss of power means a loss of heat


2. Furnaces

These heavy-duty heating systems use gas or electricity to heat larger buildings. Heated air is then distributed throughout the building through a network of pipes.

Furnace Pros

  • Last for decades and requires very little maintenance
  • Consistent heating in all seasons

Furnace Cons

  • High safety risk
  • Not sustainable
  • Take up lots of space


3. Gas Central Heating

These systems use a gas-fired boiler and an electric pump to move the heated water through a network of hot water radiators placed around a building. Cooled water at the end of the circuit is returned to the boiler for reheating. This requires the constant firing of the boiler throughout the day to maintain the necessary heat.

Gas Central Heating Pros

  • Convenient and easily controlled
  • Fairly cost-effective compared to electric heating

Gas Central Heating Cons

  • Sustainability concerns
  • Not sustainable
  • Significant safety risk
  • Requires yearly maintenance


4. Hot Water Radiators

Hot water radiators have been used for decades. Hot water from a gas-fired boiler enters the radiator through a pipe. The radiator itself has a large surface area through which hot air can escape to heat a room. Each radiator can be manually controlled using a thermostatic valve to set different temperatures for a room, to reduce energy consumption and cost.

Hot Water Radiator Pros

  • Run quietly for minimal disturbance
  • Energy-efficient, resulting in lower costs

Hot Water Radiator Cons

  • Can require expensive maintenance
  • Uneven heating causes cold spots


5. Storage Heaters

Storage heaters have been used since the 1960s. Ceramic elements in the system absorb heat generated by cheaper electricity during nighttime. Heat is then released during the following day when needed.

Storage Heater Pros

  • Cheap to run and easy to install
  • Energy-efficient in the right situation

Storage Heater Cons

  • Electricity is still an expensive fuel
  • Can unintentionally overheat rooms
  • Heat storage can deteriorate over time


6. Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating has its roots in the Roman hypocaust system. Modern underfloor heating is provided using either electricity or water.

Underfloor Heating Pros

  • More energy efficient than traditional radiators
  • Avoids cold spots
  • Requires very little maintenance
  • Allows for more design flexibility in a room

Underfloor Heating Cons

  • Extremely expensive and time-consuming to install

All of these heating solutions have significant drawbacks for meeting the needs of a university. Watertube steam boiler heating systems, such as those offered by Miura, present a much more efficient and modern alternative.


Miura’s modular water-tube steam boiler systems are an ideal heating solution for universities, boasting low emissions output. These compact modular boilers take up around half the space than traditional heating solutions. Miura boilers are also adept at managing fluctuating load demands despite their compact size. These water-tube boilers are powerful enough to cope with the heating, hot water, kitchen, and laundry demands of any university campus while cycling ON and OFF as needed to reduce emissions production.

Miura’s compact water-tube boilers present an ideal heating solution for a university campus looking to increase efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. To choose the right boiler for your organization’s needs, locate your nearest Miura rep today.