Did you know buildings in big cities can be blamed for up to 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions? That’s why it’s so important that developers like Core Development Group partner with companies like Subterra Renewables to implement geothermal heat pump technology.
Subterra recently broke ground on a new geothermal heat pump at Core Development Group’s Birchcliff Urban Towns development, which is currently under construction in Toronto. We recently had the opportunity to learn more about the benefits of geothermal technology from Lane Theriault, President of Subterra. Check out our Q&A below!
Newinhomes (NIH): Can geothermal heat pump technology be implemented in any new building or are there specific site requirements?
Lane Theriault (LT): Yes. Geothermal systems are compatible with any building type and can interface with all the typical in-suite equipment builders are used to using, be it a heat-pump, fan coil, or VRF system. There are also no geographic restrictions either; these systems circulate fluid through a series of underground pipes that either absorb or dissipate heat into the ground, and there’s not much difference in the ground’s ability to transfer heat from place to place.
NIH: Is there a reason a building shouldn't use a geothermal system?
LT: No, using geothermal systems is the single most efficient way to heat and cool any building today, and in turn reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Above and beyond energy savings, geothermal exchange systems save a great deal of water that would otherwise be evaporated in the cooling tower of a conventional system. These environmental benefits help developers meet their sustainability goals and align with city planning objectives and building codes, which in turn often expedites the building approval and development process and may allow for more saleable floor area.
If a developer chooses to work with a third party energy provider, the benefits are even greater. The cost of installing the system is paid for by the energy provider, so the developer improves their construction budget. Owners also benefit because they only pay a fixed monthly fee, so there’s never any surprises on their utility bills and they are protected from rising energy prices.
NIH: What are some other benefits for the condo owners at Birchcliff Urban Towns?
LT: Living in a building with geothermal technology brings a better quality of life for residents than living in a conventional building. The systems are very quiet and there is no unsightly equipment outside of the buildings. The lack of natural gas use means the building is safer, as the potential for gas leaks and explosions are eliminated. Lastly, the system is more reliable than a conventional system because it has few moving parts and doesn’t have equipment enduring high temperatures from burning fuel.
NIH: Now that installation at Birchcliff Urban Towns is underway, what are the next steps and how long will it take?
LT: After we have drilled all the boreholes required, the vertical piping will be installed up to where the eventual bottom of the building foundation will be. This entire process only takes a couple weeks. Once the excavation is complete, we come back and run the horizontal piping along the bottom of the foundation over to our mechanical room. Finally, when the building is nearing completion, we will install the pumps and values needed in the mechanical room and commission the system, so the whole process takes almost as long as it takes to build the building. Once it’s running, we are constantly monitoring the system and performing any maintenance that the system needs over the next 30 years.
NIH: Is it possible to retrofit existing buildings with geothermal heat pump technology?
LT: Yes – Although it’s more cost effective to install in new construction, new technologies and processes are making it less expensive to retrofit older buildings. Low overhead drilling rigs can drill from the bottom of parking garages, and angled drill rigs access the ground underneath a building that’s already built. Heat pump technology is also improving to make it easier to connect legacy building HVAC systems into geothermal systems underground, avoiding costly retrofits elsewhere in the building.
NIH: Geothermal is widely considered one of the greenest power sources available. What are some complementary systems that you would like to see in new homes?
LT: Geothermal systems still require electricity to run. If this electricity could be generated on site with the use of solar panels, and stored in a battery system, there’s the potential to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions associated with operating the building.
We extend a big thank you to Lane for taking the time to explain the benefits of a geothermal heat pump system. To learn more about the next townhome release at Birchcliff Urban Towns, register for updates!