West Bristol School
Bristol CT

Geothermal Energy Warms and Cools New School

All new schools in Connecticut are mandated by the state to be built to LEED® Silver, according to the Capital Region Education Council which works with schools to reduce energy costs. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system, and Silver is the third highest of its four designations. There are several methods that can be used to reach the LEED Silver rating, and points are accumulated based on the complexity of the technology used. Using geothermal technology is a rarity, especially in the public school system, partly due to the amount of land needed to drill wells.

“We are cutting edge. The long-term energy savings will be tremendous, that was why we made the decision to install the geothermal system in the first place,” Bristol Deputy Superintendent, Susan Moreau, said.

Each of the 150 wells is about 500 feet deep, explained Tim Callahan, the district’s projects manager for the school. West Bristol’s geothermal system required more than 75,000 feet of pipe, and water is pumped through Wirsbo hePEX pipes from deep in the earth, where the ambient temperature is always 52 degrees, Callahan said. During warm weather the water will be cooled down and in the winter it will warm up. There are no boilers and the water is heated through heat transfer pumps and then circulated through the buildings.

The classroom floors have radiant heat that brings warmth to the students’ feet, and cool air is brought in through vents near the ceilings. By bringing the warmer temperatures in from the floor and the cooler from the ceiling the system works at its optimum and most efficient design. Heating and cooling are controlled remotely by a computer, Callahan said. “The system is able to simultaneously cool some portions of the building and heat other portions depending on where the sun is shining.”

Representatives from CES of Middletown, the engineering company installing the schools’ geothermal system, said the wells in the bore field are not visible above ground. “You don’t see it, you don’t hear it, you don’t feel vibrations, it’s just underground,” said Jim Kowalski, a CES associate. The system is accessed through a “collector box” that is similar in size to a manhole cover.

The project, completed in time for the 2012 school year, received great support from the field, especially through Uponor’s rep firm Shelton Winnelson’s Gary Maturo, sales and training manager, who spent hours in the field supporting contractors with training and installation assistance. “We provided in-depth engineering design and assistance,” Maturo said. “And when it came time to install the systems, we provided on-site training and support. I think we provided more than just a great product. We provided peace of mind that the tubing was installed and connected correctly and professionally.”

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Project Highlights

• LEED® Silver
• Uponor radiant heating and cooling system
• Geothermal system
• 150 wells, each 500 feet deep
• Heating and cooling controlled from remote location
• Every classroom features radiant floors from Uponor

Project Data

• Amount of pipe: 75,000 feet
• Project cost: $58 million
• Architect: Drummey Rosane Anderson, Newton, MA
• General Contractor: Gilbane, Inc., Providence, RI
• Radiant contractor: Action Air, Manchester, CT