Amherst College Bunker Boiler

The Amherst College Bunker is a former US Government Strategic Air Command Center which now houses a Five Colleges collection of rare books and documents. The goal of this project was to design a new mechanical system with the reliability needed by this climate controlled program, the robustness required for the remote site, and the greatest efficiency improvements possible.

Project Details

A feasibility study for the Bunker Boiler project, completed by C&H consultants Kohler & Lewis Engineering, estimated that the existing double oil boiler system consumed 6000 gallons of oil per year. Our replacement boiler burns roughly 47 tons of wood pellets to meet the same heating load. According to a University of Maine Extension study from 2013, that translates into a reduction of over 90% of carbon dioxide emissions annually. And, thanks to the increased efficiency of the pellet boiler, the new system was also estimated to result in an energy use reduction of 62 million Btu per year.

The Amherst College Bunker system was designed to be entirely fossil free, with no oil or gas back-up. A primary & secondary boiler work in tandem to provide the energy needs, with one or the other stepping up heat production if a single boiler fails or must be taken offline for servicing. An inverted agricultural hopper holds 30 tons of pellets, or over 2/3 of annual fuel needs. This storage container feeds pellets directly into the boiler, requiring no more manual intervention than a standard fossil fuel system.

C&H applied for and received a Commercial-Scale Renewable Thermal & District Energy grant from The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. These grants were part of a pilot program designed to encourage the adoption of renewable energy technologies in the Commonwealth, beyond the residential scale.

The new system required a new structure to house the boilers. This pre-fabricated mechanical building was designed and built by Froling Energy of Peterborough, NH. The building was fully constructed off-site, including installation of boilers, piping and accessories.  The building was delivered to the site on a flat-bed truck and set into place for final hook-ups.

Project Team


C&H Architects, Amherst MA

Fabrication and Construction

Froling Energy, Peterborough NH

MEP Engineer

Kohler & Lewis, Keene NH