It’s not every day that you can say your office is a 25,000-square-foot commercial construction site. In early April, some coworkers and I visited the future home of the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) Don Sherrill Secondary Education Center, to learn the ins and outs of sustainable commercial construction firsthand.
Arriving at the site, it was clear that the building’s framework looked more like a house than a school — definitely an inviting setting for children enrolled in the Behavioral Skills Program from grades six through nine. The new school building will welcome students for the 2013-2014 academic year.
Prior to starting construction on the energy-efficient LPS Sherrill building, the project contractor, New Generation Construction, leveled the site’s existing 18,000-square-foot facility.
In addition to this being our first educational facility, it was also our first visit to a construction site using geothermal technology.
Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHP), also known as ground source heat pumps, are among the most energy and cost efficient heating and cooling systems available on the market today. GHP systems are gaining traction in the construction industry with approximately 50,000 systems installed in the U.S. per year. Research shows that when a building is constructed with a geothermal system, it has the equivalent effect of planting 750 trees or taking two cars off the road.
Although many parts of the country experience seasonal temperature extremes, the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature a few feet below the earth's surface. Depending on latitude, ground temperatures range from 45°F to 75°F. Like a cave, this ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler than the air above it in the summer.
A GHP takes advantage of this by transferring heat stored in the earth into a building during the winter, and transfers it back into the ground during the summer. Studies note that 70 percent of the energy used in a GHP system is renewable energy from the ground.
In addition to the GHP being worked on, we noticed a lot of different equipment being used on the jobsite during our visit. In preparation for concrete being poured at the school’s entrance, an earthmover was busy grading and leveling the ground. There were indoor lifts helping the workers move heavy equipment from the ground level to the building’s loft-style second floor. Finally, industrial-style heaters were placed at various locations around the site to keep the workers warm in the drafty school structure.
Lincoln has been booming with construction lately. If there’s a new piece of equipment or an upcoming technology, like geothermal, that you would like to learn more about, let us know about it in the comments below.