Project Spotlight: Common Ground

Common Ground is now an uncommon sight for a High School. A project to install geothermal wells has recently entered construction phase.  These wells will act to use the earth as a heat source (during the winter) and a heat sink (during the summer).

The geothermal system replaces conventional boilers, eliminating consumption of fuel for space heating.  The geothermal system also improves cooling efficiencies and eliminates outside air cooling equipment.  This results in a building with improved sustainability, reduced operating cost, and other benefits.  

To work, the geothermal system extracts heat energy (BTUs) from a network of below-grade installations located under the future parking lot.  These installations consist of closed tubing installed in 500-ft deep, drilled bores (see photos).  Water circulates between the building
and the ground via this tubing network.  Heat energy is extracted from the ground surrounding the tubing in the winter when the building needs to be heated; heat energy is placed into the ground surrounding the tubing in summer when the building needs to be cooled.  

By replacing conventional boilers and conventional chillers and outside air equipment, the geothermal system:

  • Eliminates onsite fuel combustion

  • Reduces the school’s annual heating and cooling costs by about $15,000/year (about a 50% reduction)

  • Cuts the carbon emissions associated with heating and cooling by about half (30 MTCE vs 60 MTCE)

  • Eliminates the need for outside air equipment, preserving aesthetics and reducing noise 

The decision to install these wells falls within the unique mission statement of the school; “to cultivate habits of healthy living and sustainable environmental practice among a diverse community of children, families, and adults.” As the construction is carried out, students will get to see first hand how such their new geothermal system will work.

Recently, students got to speak with one of the lead architects of the project in this video, posted on Common Ground’s website:

Below are some photos of the drill site, taken by our own Calvin Weingart, LS, who staked out the location for the geothermal wells:

Geothermal wells begin drilling.

 Drilling equipment from a distance.