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5 Great Geothermal Buildings


Incorporating geothermal systems in buildings, both new and old, as well as large and small, has been exponentially increasing as awareness of its energy saving potential and environmental benefits becomes more apparent. 

Here are 5 Notable Geothermal Buildings.

1.  Immaculate Heart of Mary - Michigan

immaculate heart of mary geothermal projectThe Sisters, servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) in Monroe, MI, installed a very large geothermal system in their Motherhouse in 2003.  Built in 1932, the 376,000 sq. ft. builiding was converted into a retirement home for 240 sisters and serves as headquarters for the IHM congregation.

IHM has the largest residential geothermal field in the country, with a 232 closed loop geothermal energy system that uses the earth as a giant radiator. 

The IHM nuns provide 2 hour educational tours of this building that has won 11 local, state and national awards, including the 2002 Clean Air Award and 2007 Energy Star Award from the Environmental Protection Agency, and the 2008 Keep Michigan Beautiful Award. 


2.  Shields Tavern - Virginia

Shields Tavern geothermal projectLocated in Williamsburg, VA, Shields Tavern is one of the oldest rebuilt taverns that incorporates one of the largest geothermal heating and cooling units. 

One of the goals of Colonial Williamsburg was to create the sights and sounds of an authentic 18th century town.  Many of the buildings including Shields Tavern use Geoexchange, a modern heating and cooling technology that does not require outdoor condensers or window air conditioners.  Instead of using fossil fuels, it draws energy from the ground.

What started off as a project to maintain charm and a sense of history, ended up being the best choice for the property, because it has the lowest life-cycle costs and provides a 40 percent efficiency bonus.  

3.  Stockton College - New Jersey


The main academic building was designed prior to 1970's energy shortages and therefore did not take into consieration energy efficiency.  It is comprised of 14 wings and totals 440,000 square feet in space.  With an HVAC system reaching the end of its life, the college took on a feasability study to decide on the most energy and cost efficient heating and cooling system.  

In comparing the replacement options it was found that although geothermal would cost more up front it would only take 3.5 years to payback the additional investment in geothermal.  After that the system would save them considerable amounts financially and reduce energy usage.  Further rebates and awards from the state made the project even more feasible, and in 1993 the 400 well closed loop system was installed and put to efficient heating and cooling use.


4.  Trinity Church - Massachusetts

trinity church geothermal projectLocated in Boston, MA, and founded in 1733, the beautiful Church of Trinity has installed a vertical geothermal system comprised of six 1,500 ft. wells.  Many reasons drove the decision to choose geothermal including reducing the buildings carbon footprint, avoiding cluttering the roof with conventional HVAC systems that would ruin the historic feel, gaining average savings of 25-50% and freeing 50-80% more space in building's mechanical rooms.



5.  Juneau Airport - Alaska

juneau airport geothermal projectLocated in Alaska, this airport chose a geothermal heat pump as part of an overall makeover.  They were able to utilize funding from the renewable energy grant fund to achieve comfortable, clean and more efficient heating.  This project is one of only a few that has been undertaken at an airport.




Why are Geothermal Buildings Becoming More Prevalant?

Recent financing options of renewable energy technologies, such as geothermal are allowing for more affordable installs.  In many cases, a power purchase agreement or other forms of financing can equate to little or no extra cost to the user, and come equipped with reduced maintenance and energy savings.  

In the end, it allows the user to simply focus on the many benefits of having a geothermal system compared to conventional systems, such as saving money in the long run and providing comfortable environmentally friendly heating and cooling.