Geothermal technology expands to academic buildings on the Okanagan Campus
The University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus is digging deep— literally—to reduce the impact it has on the planet.
UBC has gone underground to employ geo-exchange technology for the heating and cooling needs of most campus buildings. Using the natural energy of the earth reduces the environmental footprint while meeting the climate-control needs of the large campus buildings.
The geo-exchange system is estimated to avoid putting approximately 38,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere over the next 25 years. On average, a typical passenger car emits 5.5 tonnes of CO2 annually.
All new academic buildings are now heated and cooled using geothermal technology—including the Fipke Centre for Innovative Research, University Centre, Arts and Sciences II, Engineering, Management and Education (EME) and the Health Sciences Centre. In addition, the new 212-bed Purcell Residence has its own horizontal geo-exchange loop system.
Existing Okanagan campus academic buildings are being retrofitted for heat from geo-exchange.
“The geo-thermal system serves as the foundation of our emissions and energy reduction strategy on campus,” says Jackie Podger, associate vice president, finance and administration. “All new academic buildings are expected to create substantial energy savings over a conventional building with the same design, and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions.”
Geo-exchange technology extracts low-grade heat from the earth—in the case of the Okanagan campus with water from a lake-size underground aquifer—and compresses it via a reverse refrigeration process that increases the temperature and can then be used to heat buildings in the winter.
In the summer, the relative cold temperature of the aquifer water cools the buildings.
Benefits of geo-exchange include reduced natural gas consumption, a reduction in harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and significant operational cost savings compared to using conventional, gas-fired heating equipment.
“Measures to improve operational sustainability on campus go beyond the geo-exchange system to incorporate green roofs, solar panels for domestic water pre-heat, water-saving fixtures and best practices in locally-sourced, high-recycled content materials,” says Leanne Bilodeau, director, sustainability operations. “Together, these measures serve to reduce the campus’ environmental footprint, reduce energy use and costs and help to support the local economy.”
Related topics: sustainability