The global trend to move away from fossil fuels and embrace cleaner, greener, renewable and sustainable energy seems to have renewed attention this year. Amid dire warnings from the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, time continues to be of the essence in making the necessary adjustments to avert a global catastrophe.
This will have serious consequences for the development industry because, after the energy and transportation sectors, buildings represent the third largest source of emissions in Canada. Sustainability experts point out that developing electrification and geothermal planning strategies is a key factor contributing to Canada’s goal of becoming a net zero consumption nation by 2050.
In Toronto, the deadline is even more pressing, with the city having established green building frameworks that aim to achieve zero-emission buildings by 2030. Developers and anyone associated with the development industry in Toronto would do better. to have their “stuff” together facing an impending deadline barely 97 months away.
A thought leader in planning and delivering new energy solutions to the development industry is Geosource Energy, a renewable energy solutions provider specializing in the rigorous science of geo-trade. Geosource designs and builds geothermal infrastructure by drilling under buildings so they can do without natural gas. This is possible because the geo-exchange technology is fully electric and very efficient, thus significantly reducing a building’s greenhouse gas emissions. Geothermal energy harnesses the constant temperature of the earth, in fact using the ground beneath our feet as a thermal battery. In summer, the battery is charged when we remove heat from our buildings and transfer it to the ground to provide space cooling. The battery is then discharged in winter when we extract heat from the ground to keep us warm. Ultimately, geographic exchanges are sustainable and perennial, making them a key solution for decarbonizing communities.
âGeo-trade is a heating and cooling system that works by moving heat between the ground and our buildings,â explains Darynne Hagen, Development Manager at Geosource. âWhat makes it so effective is the fact that about 10 meters below the surface the temperature is constant all year round. In southern Ontario, ground temperatures are generally between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius. So, on a hot summer day, instead of a building’s air conditioner or cooling tower trying to push excess heat from your building to the warm outside air, geographic exchange technology offers a path of least resistance for this heat to flow to the ground, dramatically improving operational efficiency and resulting in reduced power consumption. In winter, instead of burning fossil fuels for heat, geothermal exchange systems simply reverse the building cooling process and extract heat from the ground.
Compared to other methods of electric heating, such as aerothermal heat pumps, geothermal energy is often more efficient because the temperature of the outside air fluctuates throughout the year, unlike the temperature of the ground. However, since geo-exchange takes advantage of the constant temperature of the soil to maintain operational efficiency, there is an operational caveat that in order to keep the temperature constant, it is necessary to ensure that the exchange of heat to / from the ground is balanced every year.
In our common goal of net-zero, Geosource is charting an achievable path for its clients, consisting of condominiums and real estate developers as well as those in the design-build space such as municipalities, general contractors, industrial building owners. / commercial and rental properties. the owners. The main challenges of communications are to educate the advantages of geographic exchange systems and to illustrate the transition process.
âTraining is an essential first step for any developer looking to implement geo-exchange technology,â says Darryl Chow, director of business development at Geosource. âCurrently, the industry is trying to raise awareness and define the critical path forward through industry associations, but much remains to be done to bridge the knowledge gap that is becoming increasingly evident as adoption of geo-exchange is accelerating. It will be essential to proactively seek partners at all levels of government, working directly with stakeholders to help a better and more transparent understanding of geographic exchanges.
Geothermal exchange systems and the switch to geothermal energy are only part of the toolkit developers should consider regarding the energy needs of their projects. Geothermal exchanges can provide thermal energy on demand, but the ground must be balanced over the long term to maintain operational efficiency. but will ultimately be a necessity in the future, especially with efficient buildings.
But before a developer even seeks to decarbonize their HVAC system, they must first seek to minimize the total HVAC energy requirements through the building design, as in doing so, they can minimize the size / capacity of the system. that he chooses to install, thereby reducing the initial cost. Energy-efficient solutions include airtightness of the building, optimization of the layout to refine solar heat gains and the installation of high-performance building envelopes.
The benefits of geo-exchange technology for developers and their projects are numerous, both short and long term. The cost of cooling a space is much cheaper with geo-trade and the technology reduces a building’s carbon footprint and can reduce HVAC greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95% compared to systems traditional. It reduces total annual costs with lower maintenance and operational requirements, while being reliable in every season and unaffected by seasonal temperature changes. It also provides predictable utility costs to the tenants of the building, which has a direct impact on the quality, retention and return on investment of tenants, thus increasing the value of the property.
Geosource also offers geo-exchange as a public service, thanks to its partnership with OEC, a group of companies owned by the municipality offering a wide range of services in the sectors of utilities, infrastructure and renewable energy. OEC is a long-time leader in geothermal utilities, having launched its geothermal exchange system ownership and operation service over ten years ago. This service saves the developer on the initial investment costs to implement the geo-exchange technology, as the cost is borne by the utility partner. The utility is provided for a predetermined fixed price ensuring cost certainty for the tenants of the building while not being subject to the volatility of the energy market. It also offers the invaluable benefits of reliable customer service and out-of-the-box operational support. The geo-exchange system is handed over to the owner after the end of the 30-year contract, after which the piping infrastructure is expected to continue to operate for over 70 years.
Geosource’s top tip for developers with projects in the planning stage is to look at geo-exchange as early in the process as possible, even at the design stage. âFor example, geographic swapping may actually allow the elimination or reduction of mechanical space in penthouses, potentially increasing salable or amenity space,â Hagen explains. âSo if we are involved early in the design process, we can work with the architect to optimize the space saved. Geo-exchange technology is fairly straightforward, but it does require the buy-in of a number of other building specialists such as mechanical, structural and energy professionals, as well as architects and designers. property managers.
Over the past few years, Geosource has provided its solutions and expertise to two leading Toronto projects. At the University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle, St. George’s campus, a geothermal project is expected to produce annual greenhouse gas reductions of 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2024. In the Don Valley At Evergreen Brickworks, the geo-exchange system next to the historic kiln building is expected to reduce the building’s energy use by up to 75% and significantly reduce its carbon emissions by 95%. Its total production of greenhouse gas emissions will drop from 633 tonnes to just 33 tonnes.
The speeches are over and the cameras have left Glasgow, so now the real work begins to meet the daily net-zero goals – person by person, building by building – and geo-trading is a tool for developers to use to accomplish the change required in our fight for the planet.
âBe open to change by educating yourself, talking to experts and trusting the science,â Chow says in a message to developers and municipalities. âAsk the tough questions about how and why things can be different. Have the courage and the confidence to act. All of this is a big part of how our energy transition will happen. And know that the cost of inaction far exceeds the alternative. “
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