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UBC Reports | Vol. 53 | No. 9 | Sep. 6, 2007

Groundwater Energy to Make Okanagan Campus Emissions-Free

By Bud Mortenson

When the Fipke Centre for Innovative Research opens in Spring 2008, it will be the first building at UBC Okanagan with heating and cooling supplied directly by Mother Nature.

In fact, says Aidan Kiernan, UBC Okanagan’s Assoc. Vice President of Operations, over the next several years all academic buildings on the 105-hectare campus will use thermal energy extracted from groundwater under the campus.

“By 2010, this campus will be virtually emissions-free,” says Kiernan. In a process called geoexchange, water pumped from the ground will be used at its natural temperature of 10.5 °C to cool buildings during notoriously hot Okanagan summers. In winter, the water will be compressed to raise its temperature to about 54°C.

The geoexchange system will eventually replace an existing natural-gas-fired plant, reducing energy costs by about $100,000 a year, Kiernan says.

Having done its job heating or cooling the buildings, water will be pumped back into the ground -- returned to an immense aquifer, or natural underground reservoir, in the gravel deposits that form much of the campus geology.

“We’re in an explosive growth of construction,” says Kiernan. In addition to the 6,500 sq. m. (68,000 sq. ft.) Fipke Centre for Innovative Research, he cites as examples three other major construction projects: the Meekison Student Centre starting this month, and the UBC Okanagan Arts and Sciences II and Engineering and Management buildings, both expected to start construction this year.

“All our new buildings are designed to use the geo-exchange system,” says Kiernan. “And by 2010 all existing buildings will be retrofitted to use geoexchange technology for heating and cooling.”

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Last reviewed 06-Sep-2007

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