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Oldest halls get newest heating/cooling via geothermal wells

09/28/2011

Elliott Hall on Miami University's campus recently underwent a makeover.
photo: Scott Allison
Elliott and Stoddard halls at Miami University, built in 1829 and 1836, respectively, are the oldest residence halls on campus and now have the most contemporary and sustainable heating and cooling systems, via 17 600-feet-deep geothermal wells.

This summer, for a Miami Makeover, part of Miami’s long-range housing and dining master plan, upgrades in security and utility efficiencies were made in several of Miami’s 41 residence halls and apartment buildings.

The most significant work happened in Elliott and Stoddard, which house students in the Scholar Leader program. In their first decades, students heated and cooked in their rooms with firewood they’d collected. Now, they can enter their rooms by tapping new electronic ID cards to the key plate, set room-specific temperatures with recovered heat* and use Wi-Fi inside and out (this was accomplished two years ago).

This summer’s upgrades included:
  • Installation of numerous utility-efficient systems
  • Modernization of rooms, including added electric outlets and energy-efficient windows
  • New plumbing and bathroom fixtures (yes, they have been renovated several times since the 1800s.)

Specific processes enabling efficiency include:

    1. Installation of geothermal heating/cooling, a clean, earth-friendly option

    2. *Restroom exhaust heat recovery - (the warm air from the bathroom exhaust is captured and used when heating)

    3. Low-flow plumbing fixtures

    4. Free cooling in heating mode, free heating in cooling mode on fan coil systems - (if students want to heat their rooms when most others are cooling then that heating is 'free' because the system is rejecting the heat from cooling mode. The opposite also works.)

    5. Insulation in exterior walls (there was none before.)

    6. Insulation in the attic (there was none before)

    7. High-efficiency natural gas water heaters

    8. Double-pane energy efficient windows replaced single pane windows

    9. The wood floors in Elliott and both halls’ living rooms were refinished, instead of being replaced

It’s too soon to tell how much energy will be saved, especially since for the first time, residents will now have air conditioning. But, Stoddard and Elliott are being closely monitored. Building envelope and insulation upgrades will work in concert with electrical, lighting and various control upgrades to enhance occupant comfort and energy performance. The geothermal heat pump system feeds into a new energy conservation technology that transfers heat from the sunny and warm rooms to the shady and cool ones.

Miami University houses about 7,100 undergraduate students. These buildings range in age from Elliott Hall, built in 1829, to the Heritage Commons apartments completed in 2005. The majority of the residence halls at Miami are more than 40 years old.

Miami’s long-range housing and dining master plan was developed through consultation with outside agencies, extensive planning and discussion among physical facilities, housing dining, recreation and business services (HDRBS) and academic, administrative and residential life committees over the last two years.

Surveys were emailed to a random sample of students and parents. These communications followed an internal study begun in 2006 focusing on improving the residential experience for students and forecasting the university’s long-range housing and dining needs in regard to meeting national standards and continuing to attract students.

Related Media

Photos Photos  
Elliott Hall in 1913.
photo: Miami Libraries; Snyder photo collection via Scott Allison

Geothermal heating and cooling

What is geothermal heating and cooling?
In Miami’s geothermal system, water is pumped through piping in a series of underground wells 600’ deep. A compressor and heat exchanger pull the heat in the heating mode from the pipes and send it via refrigerant lines to the individual fan coils in each room. This process is reversed in the cooling mode: The refrigerant lines draw heat away from the rooms and carry it to the compressor and heat exchanger to be pumped through piping to be absorbed in the ground.

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