Just like the space on the site itself that must be available for drilling, a facility must also have space for the equipment needed to run a geothermal system.
“It is a little bit space-intensive in that you need space to install all these individual heat pumps. In order to solve that and not take up valuable square footage within the footprint of the building, we chose to go with a penthouse organization where all of the heat pumps themselves are located above the areas they serve in an individual penthouse, which of course is shielded from the weather,” Malicki says.
The design also lends itself to easy access for maintenance without disrupting the daily flow of business. “Everything can be taken care of out of sight,” he says.
Another important design element is incorporating an efficient, thermal building envelope.
“I think that’s something we really achieved here. We used an above-average super-insulated envelope in that we used an innovative spray-applied polyurethane insulation in the walls, a kind of expanding foam insulation,” Malicki says.
Coupled with that is a roof installation of lightweight insulated concrete that was poured and then topped with insulation in the roof membrane, as well.
“A third element would be a real efficient UV glass, which limits your heat gain throughout the facility. I think all of these envelope considerations that we took into effect really helped out the geothermal system and really adds to the energy savings,” Malicki adds.
While installing a geothermal system is just the first hurdle that needs to be cleared, Malicki says the maintenance of the system can be easily managed. One way this was tackled on the CRMC project was through standardization, particularly in the filters used.
“It’s maintenance-friendly in that each individual heat pump unit is served by one type of filter size. They’re all basically utilizing the same parts, so it’s just a kit of parts that’s repeated over and over again,” he says.
However, beyond size is also the grade of filter, and going up to a higher grade is something Hundley stresses should be discussed with ownership.
“That’s when the price you pay for the premium on the filters is more than compensated for in the energy systems, but it’s one of the things you want to make sure is understood upfront so [the owner] is not surprised at the end of the job,” he says.
At CRMC, there also is a good amount of flexibility built in, with temperature controls for individual rooms.
“When one of the units goes down, it’s limited in area. You’re not shutting down an entire patient wing, for instance, to service one unit,” Malicki adds.
When pitching a project that requires a significant upfront investment to ownership, it’s likely the word “payback” will come up. And in the case of CRMC, the point when the initial cost will be recouped is expected to be in under two years.
Sandrella says CMTA has worked on a number of geothermal projects, including schools and medical office buildings, which formed a basis for predicting payback on the CRMC project.
“Based on all that past research data, we estimated energy usage for this facility, and we think it’s going to bear out pretty close to our estimates,” he says.
However, undergoing such projects will also likely open the door to tax credits and incentives. CRMC CEO Kathy Love says in this case, the savings brought the project payback to 10 months, in addition to the ongoing monthly energy savings.
However, for an administrator, there are concerns beyond cost that include basic requirements for how a facility is operated.
“You have all your concerns and fears that you’re not going to get the OR at the temperature you need or if it’s going to work, but I can honestly say that never having to think about a boiler or chiller again is not something I’m going to lose sleep over,” she says. “We are very pleased with the temperature controls and the humidity levels, all of the things we hold very true for licensure and regulatory matters.”