Digging deep for a better future
So what, exactly, were all those drilling rigs and pieces of construction equipment on UNC Asheville’s Main Quad this summer?
It’s all part of an effort to give UNC Asheville a greener footprint and lower utility bills.
The university is installing a geothermal well field under the Main Quad as the new source of heating and cooling for Rhoades Hall and Tower, which are undergoing total renovation. The 34 wells, which are 500 feet deep and connected by seven miles of pipe, will be hidden beneath the Main Quad lawn in time for the start of classes August 23.
This new technology, also known as a ground-source heat pump system, operates by continuously circulating liquid through the well-and-pipe system. The earth’s constant 58-degree temperature is used to warm the building in winter and cool it in the summer. During the winter, heat pumps extract warmth from the circulating liquid to warm the air. In the summer, heat is extracted from the building’s air and carried underground through the closed loop system.
This isn’t UNC Asheville’s first foray into ground-source heat pump systems. They are already in use at the Sam Millar Facilities Complex, Pisgah House and New Hall.
The systems are absolutely quiet and extremely energy efficient. The New Hall classroom building uses only 13 percent of the energy used by the similar-sized Carmichael Hall, located just a few steps away.
This heating and cooling system is one of many improvements for Rhoades Hall, the first classroom and science building on campus, which was constructed in 1961. Rhoades Tower was added in 1966, and Robinson Hall in 1988, creating the three-building Rhoades-Robinson complex. The $8.8 million, state-funded renovation will bring the buildings into the current century with new labs, classrooms and offices. The building is expected to be ready for classes in fall 2012.
The university is pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification for the project. Among the new features will be larger windows for daylighting, occupancy sensors that will turn off lights when rooms are empty, and a rainwater cistern to collect water for low-flush toilets. Also, a new glassed-in lobby, facing Highsmith University Union, will provide informal seating and a study area. The project architects are PBC+L of Asheville.
At the start of the project, about 50 percent of the materials removed from the building were recycled in separate waste streams. Wood cabinets and shelving, fume hoods, electronics, and heating and cooling materials were removed and reused in other campus buildings.
The Rhoades renovation will provide additional space for the Mathematics, Physics, Environmental Studies and Computer Science departments, as well as for the UNC Asheville-N.C. State joint engineering programs, NEMAC and the Steelcase distance learning video teleconference center. The Chemistry and Biology departments, which had been located in Rhoades-Robinson, moved into the new Zeis Science and Multimedia building last year.