Geothermal System for On-site Renewable Energy
Geothermal energy is a clean and sustainable form of thermal energy generated directly from the Earth. The Brock Environmental Center will utilize geothermal heating coupled with a variable refrigerant volume (VRV) HVAC system as a part of its energy conservation strategy to be a net-zero energy facility.
Benefits of Geothermal Energy
Geothermal energy provides an alternate source of energy to create heating and cooling that generally saves 70% to 80% over conventional HVAC systems. Geothermal energy allows us to become less dependent on fossil fuels and is a clean source of energy, as it does not produce any pollution.
LEED and Living Building Requirements
The Brock Environmental Center is targeting both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certifications. LEED allows buildings to take credit for technologies that generate electricity and heat from sun, wind, water flows, waste biomass and certain thermal technologies like geothermal.
The Living Building Challenge (LBC) requires 100% of a project’s energy needs to be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis, according to the Energy Petal. Direct geothermal energy is one source of energy accepted by the LBC.
The Geothermal System in the Brock Environmental Center
The geothermal system designed for the Brock Environmental Center is composed of 18 wells that are 250 feet deep and 6 inches in diameter. The wells are tied directly to the building’s mechanical equipment—providing approximately 40 tons of heating and cooling capacity for the HVAC system and located directly north of the building below the emergency fire lane.
During the winter months, heat energy is extracted from the Earth and sent into the building to provide heat. During the summer months, heat energy is removed from the building and sent back into the Earth to be stored for the next heating cycle.
The use of geothermal wells to provide natural heating and cooling through the capture of ground water eliminates the need for an external “cooling tower or boiler.” The wells remove heat from the water circulation loop in the summer or provide heated water during the winter. As a result, there are savings for the initial and operating costs. The contribution of the resulting energy savings to the overall mechanical and electrical systems is part of the total net-zero energy calculation and rating of the building.
This geothermal system and natural ventilation initiatives mentioned in a previous post both contribute to saving energy and helping the Brock Environmental Center reach its goal of being a net-zero energy facility to meet the requirements of LEED and the LBC.