Blackstone Mechanical Contractors

University of SC North Energy Plant Expansion + WO Blackstone

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

W.O. Blackstone is the prime contractor at the University of South Carolina North Energy Chiller Plant Project. Our team is piping up a new 3,000 ton chiller. This chiller is a beast! You can watch the time-lapse installation video at the end of this article!

If you average 3 tons per house, that’s enough capacity to handle 1000 homes. This Trane machine is designed for large capacities, such as a university campus. It is designed with two separate compressor with independent refrigerant circuits. A few weeks ago I (Jeff Griffin) had the chance to travel to La Crosse, Wisconsin to the manufacturing plant. The purpose of the visit was to witness the factory testing of the chiller.

La Crosse is a cool little town of approximately 55,000 people. In 1864, James Trane moved to Wisconsin from Norway as a young man with his family. He opened a plumbing and heating shop in 1885. His son Reuben Trane was born in 1886. In 1913, father and son incorporated The Trane Co. to manufacture a low pressure heating system they invented called the Trane Vapor Heating System. They also did contracting business in addition to manufacturing.

In 1918 the first Trane facility was 5,000 SF. Today in La Crosse there are several plants and many thousands of square feet of warehouse employing approximately 3,000 people. That is a large percentage of La Crosse working for Trane. One of the things I was struck by is that, yes, there are automated processes at work in the facility, but there are also thousands of real humans putting this equipment together by hand. Each chiller is custom built. These plants are filled with hard working people with great jobs impacting the local economy and community.

There is a real sense of engineering and innovation when you visit a plant like this one. From the simple beginnings of a plumbing and heating shop, Trane has grown into an international business. Trane now has almost 30,000 employees; 400 locations in more than 100 countries; 29 manufacturing facilities in places like USA, Brazil, China, England & France; and over 120 years of experience in business. A plaque in the building lists 25 engineers who have at least 10 US patents. This represents over 400 total patents. Reuben Trane holds 31 patents for pumps & heat exchangers and the most recent patents are from engineers working in 2012.

This is a great example of American entrepreneurship, ingenuity, hard work and perseverance. Mr. W.O. Blackstone had no way of predicting in 1937 when he began that his company would endure 81 years. Neither did Reuben Trane. Likewise in 2018, we are not ensured of success. We have to continue to work hard and deliver quality results. I am proud of our heritage. Not too many companies can do what we do. This North Energy Project is great example of this.

Time lapse video credit goes to the design engineer RMF Engineering, Inc.

W.O. Blackstone offers a full range of professional mechanical contracting services for clients in the commercial office, healthcare, institutional and industrial markets in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Since 1937, W.O. Blackstone has been about the business of helping building owners, general contractors, property managers and design engineers provide effective solutions for HVAC and Plumbing systems and Industrial Process Piping.. For more information, please visit or contact us at (803) 252-8222.

W.O. Blackstone Mechanical Contractors