Like many other colleges, Virginia Tech has an extensive network of steam tunnels that run beneath much of the campus. These tunnels carry steam, electricity, and telecommunications lines throughout the campus and support Tech’s population of over 30,000 students and 1000 faculty. Although these people pass by the grates and manholes that lead to the tunnels every day, few realize what lies beneath.
The steam pipes in the tunnels originate at the power plant in the corner of campus and connect to most of the buildings on campus. Water at the plant is heated into steam by either coal or natural gas and then used to turn a turbine to generate electricity. The steam then travels to each building, where it is used for heating, cooking, sterilizing, autoclaving, and more.