Oxford, Ohio 45056
(513) 529-1950 fax
To grow sustainably, Miami digs deep: Western campus geothermal project to supply new housing and dining facilities with efficient heating and cooling
Written by David Prytherch and Susan Meikle
How do you grow a campus while shrinking energy costs and emissions? For Miami University, committed to the student experience and to sustainability, the answer is right underfoot. More than 300 geothermal wells are being drilled on the Western campus to heat and cool new, efficient residence and dining halls. In that busy construction zone Miami's energy future is taking shape.
Miami is implementing a long-range housing plan to renovate and add new residence and dining halls. But it is also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ending on-campus coal burning by 2025.
To balance these goals, Miami's physical facilities department developed a Utility Master Plan that anticipates energy needs and short and long-term facility investments between now and 2050.
Engineering's green torch: Geothermal heating and cooling a centerpiece of sustainability strategies
"Witnessing how this plan took shape, it was clear that engineering carried the green torch," said Yvette Kline, director of sustainability and energy conservation.
Miami has made geothermal heating and cooling a centerpiece of its sustainability strategies. Because temperatures underground are relatively constant (around 55 degrees Fahrenheit), pumping water through buried wells can extract heat in cooler weather or dissipate heat when it's hotter.
Such "ground source heat pump" systems are highly efficient, 400 percent more efficient than heating by natural gas steam boilers and electric-powered cooling.
Higher initial costs - the well field, heating/cooling plant, and hot-water distribution system - are quickly recovered through low operation and maintenance costs. Geothermal offers flexibility, powered by electricity from either traditional or renewable sources.
"Geothermal is very advantageous for our climate in Ohio, where heating and cooling needs are closely matched over the year," according to Doug Hammerle, associate university engineer managing the project. "This helps maximize the efficiency of the system."
Geothermal reduces Miami’s environmental footprint: more efficient than coal; 16 million gallons of water projected to be saved per year
By the time the north half of campus goes geothermal we will save more than 16 million gallons a year, Hammerle explained.
The system blends into Miami's scenic campus. The 600-foot deep wells will be hidden under campus grounds and only the geothermal heat pump plant - and its green roof - will be visible.
315 Geothermal wells will serve new Western dining facility, three residence halls in 2014
When complete in early 2014 the Western campus geothermal plant will serve a new Western dining facility (with a green roof) and three nearby residence halls - all green buildings aiming for at least a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) "silver" certification - with 315 wells.
A second phase in 2017 and then a third phase in 2025 is expected to provide heating and cooling to all of Western campus, eventually totaling 735 wells.
This is just the initial phase of campus-wide energy improvements that over the next 40 years will gradually shift the entire campus to geothermal (40 percent of square footage, including Western campus and north campus areas) and efficient, combined heat and power (CHP), according to Hammerle.
Proven technology: 61 percent decrease in energy consumption between 2010 and 2012 after Elliot and Stoddard renovations
When renovated in 2011, Elliott and Stoddard residence halls were switched from coal-fired steam heat to geothermal heating and cooling. They have shown a 61 percent decrease in energy consumption compared to 2010, even after adding air conditioning. This performance was 20 percent better than projections, according to Kline.
Largest geothermal heating and cooling project among Ohio universities
Miami's geothermal heating and cooling project is the largest among Ohio colleges and universities, according to Hammerle. It demonstrates Miami's commitment to implement its sustainability and efficiency goals, while improving campus quality of life.
"I am very proud of our efforts to make Miami University a leader in providing sustainable and efficient heating and cooling," said Cody Powell, associate vice-president for facility planning and operations.
"Transitioning to new technologies and methods can be difficult, but our team has risen to the challenge."