In early April, the next stage of the University Commons student center construction will be under way—approximately 400 feet underground—as drilling for the 42 geothermal wells begins. Updating the age-old practice of harnessing natural and renewable energy, the geothermal units will use the earth’s steady underground temperature to provide low-emission, energy-efficient temperature control for the new facility.
Designed to increase efficiency, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning structure features an energy recovery system that captures and recycles energy. This passive system is used in the conjunction with fan coils, allowing users to control the desired temperature while minimizing the University’s energy usage.
“Our use of the earth's energy for our own purposes goes back for centuries in places with natural hot springs, like Bath in England,” says Dr. Brie Paddock, Adjunct Professor of Biology. Paddock covers the topic of geothermal energy in her ID101 course, Science in Civilization.
“The relatively new geothermal wells take this a step further by drilling pipes into the earth to access that heat energy in the absence of natural hot springs. Heat energy is transferred to the water in the pipes, which is returned to the surface and used to generate electricity for people to use. It's a method of generating electricity that doesn't generate the pollutants associated with more traditional energy sources,” she adds.
Next semester, Paddock will incorporate more information about the University Common’s design in her lectures.
Many spaces of the new student center, designed by Kliment Halsband Architects (N.Y.), feature natural light to reduce electricity costs and the strain on the environment, effectively reducing the University’s carbon footprint. Even the carpets and concrete building mixtures will include pre-consumer recycled content.