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3 comments

Sustainability - Net Zero Energy Footprint?

Posted May 30, 2012 12:40 PM by larhere

CR4 would like to thank Dick Kuster of GEA Consulting for contributing this blog entry, which was originally found at the GEA HVAC Blog.

Can you build and operate a 13,000 square foot building on the bluffs of Lake Michigan with a Net Zero Energy Foot Print? Um, probably not. Can you give it the old college try? You bet! That's exactly what happened with a facility at Concordia University Wisconsin. The Concordia Center for Environmental Stewardship at the Mequon, Wisconsin campus is more accurately an initiative than it is a building.

I had the opportunity to tour CCES courtesy of a joint meeting of APICS (Association for Operations Management) and ISM (Institute for Supply Management).

Materials for this research and educational facility were selected locally to keep a low energy cost of delivery. A lot of innovation went into material application. For example, working surfaces made from compressed paper and recycled plastic bottles. Office carpets are made from recycled fibers. Decorative floor tiles are not needed because the concrete floors are artfully sectioned, colorfully stained and polished. To keep energy load down, lighting is provided by a combination of low energy fluorescent tubes and LED canisters controlled by motion and passive sensors. Local lore has it the lights have turned off during some long lectures! Water is heated by solar panels. A geo-thermal system includes over thirty-six 300 foot deep wells that tap a constant ground temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat pumps are used to maintain a 68 degree room temperature year round. In the summer they add outside air to get it up to 68 degrees. CCES is certified LEED Platinum, the highest level available.

Imagine three intersecting circles labeled Social, Economic and Environment. Where they overlap is Sustainability. It was encouraging to hear someone with strong Social and Environmental dedication and commitment claim that Sustainability has to make economic sense. This balance point exists in nature and we can strive for it in our Factories and Supply Chains. Factory-Supply Chain Sustainability looks to smooth continuous flow of resources, efficient and dependable transport, elimination or minimization of waste, and efficient energy flow.

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Guru

Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 574
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#1

Re: Sustainability - Net Zero Energy Footprint?

05/30/2012 5:10 PM

All efforts like this should be encouraged and applauded. I especially like the geothermal design. I have wondered why no one was using that idea as a heat-exchanger ever since I've thought about passive energy building design. They have been. I just wasn't aware of it.

I think an underground building makes that process even more direct and efficient. Something cave-dwellers would know. Probably the biggest problem/downside to earth dwellings (other than caves in a mountain side; although they might be too) is water leakage and being flood prone in flash-flood conditions. The idea of living in a cave in the side of a mountain is very appealing. Applying current knowledge and technology to the idea would be interesting and challenging -- a reliable water source would be a major issue, for starters. On second thought, doing this on more level ground makes more sense. Much harder to garden on a mountain side.

Looks like some good ideas and conversations here.

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Power-User

Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 323
Good Answers: 2
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Sustainability - Net Zero Energy Footprint?

05/31/2012 9:04 AM

Passerby, geothermal energy is used in Iceland and northern New Zealand to great success, but these places sit on top of very hot thermal vents, or volcanic activity, so it is not possible to do this cheaply at other locations!

Spencer.

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Guru

Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 574
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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Sustainability - Net Zero Energy Footprint?

05/31/2012 7:13 PM

Thanks for the comment, xanasax (aka Spencer).

I was under the impression that geothermal can be used for both cooling and heating, or at least using ground temperatures (beyond 30ft. according to the info. at one link) to stabilize the fluctuations of building air at ground level. Since I don't personally know anyone with a geothermal cooling or heating system, I don't have any personal accounts to rely on or examples to sample physically. But there seem to be people online who have systems for both cooling and heating and also endorse the idea.

The word thermal has the connotation of "heat." I can see how heating would seem the easier, more obvious case. I'm sure geography does influence the practical application. And cost does seem to be a limiting factor in the practical use. I think that is because heat is considered the primary reason for using geothermal as implied in this article. I think the emphasis on heat is because "we" are looking for it to also generate electricity.

Here's one person's attempt to not be limited by cost. (Surely his "method" could be automated and not require manual monitoring and switching. His solution isn't practical for someone who isn't home during the day -- especially in hot areas. But mainly it demonstrates why passive design of human occupied spaces, in the beginning, is a better solution.)

The basement temperature used for cooling in the above "story" lends support for underground dwellings to be considered as part of the solution to energy conservation planning. Overall, this is why I think energy efficient design of buildings is very important to curtailing non-renewable energy needs. It begs for creativity AND implementation.

I'll try to educate myself more, starting here. (Although, the emphasis there still seems to be on seeking "heat" sources within the earth. To me, it's definition and use is more versatile than just a heat source and shouldn't be limited in that way.)

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