One of the more interesting opportunities for reducing energy consumption in healthcare facilities is a solution that is older than dirt—literally. Ground heat source systems have been around for hundreds of years, but have only been applied to hospitals in the last 20 to 30 years.

The technology has been in use in the Nordic regions and the United Kingdom extensively for 10 years, although older installations exist. New projects in these regions expect that 25 to 40% of the heating and cooling loads in a hospital can be met using a ground source heating system. In the United States, research and energy modeling simulations project energy reductions of up to 27% when bundled with other centralized heat recovery strategies.

So why has the United States been slow to adopt this technique? I suspect that first cost certainly has something to do with the low rate of implementation. The system relies on the use of drilled bores on a site to provide the temperature differential to make the system work. Drilling these holes can add significant cost.

There is an alternate developed in the United Kingdom called the EnergyPile. This system uses structural pile foundation systems as the bores for the system and saves the additional cost of that work. Look it up. See if you can figure an application for the system on your next project.