Heat Rising at Campus Instructional Facility

Water matters at the new Campus Instructional Facility (CIF). Whether heating or cooling the new 4-story, 122,000-square-foot building at the corner of Main Street and Wright Street in Urbana, a water-glycol mix will hold the key to cutting operating costs and offering a living laboratory of geothermal energy capabilities.

Clarence Odom, F&S associate director of project management, Capital Programs, with the geothermal power system in the basement of CIF.

The concept is easy: the temperature underground is more consistent throughout the year than air temperature. Geothermal plumbing in the ground uses liquid to move heat and make the building temperature comfortable year round. In the summer the heat is pulled out of the building and in the winter the heat is pulled into the building. By using a geothermal system, savings to the building’s heating and cooling systems could reach 30 percent against standard utility use.

“Geothermal energy building systems have a tremendous future, and the technology at CIF is a fantastic example of how F&S works with campus to add to the academic capabilities of this campus,” said Dr. Tugce Baser, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE). “My class, specifically, will look at data coming from how efficiently the liquid is heated and cooled, which is then used to heat and cool the building itself.”

During the planning for construction, F&S’ Dr. Mohamed Attalla, Clarence Odom, and Morgan White ensured the site would become a working and living laboratory for data from the heating and cooling system. Basement work areas, labs, and offices now actually host the direct physical lines of energy coming from the extensive geothermal system. Within view of CIF is the engineering quad, home to a 385-foot-deep borehole lined with fiber optics that collects data about the very earth around us, allowing researchers and operators to make adjustments based on these external, underground factors.

Illinois Geothermal Coalition

Part of using geothermal power relied on buy-in from other organizations on campus and in the community. To jumpstart the process, F&S worked with campus researchers to create the Illinois Geothermal Coalition (IGC). As a founding member, F&S worked with the IGC to increase geothermal awareness when developing new infrastructure on campus. It is thanks to the IGC for the development of geothermal energy use at CIF.

“The development and deployment of the Illinois Geothermal Coalition is what is helping draw focus from other parts of campus and those in the community about the present and future use of geothermal as a means of energy production and as a research topic as more efforts are made to make buildings more sustainable,” said Morgan White, associate director for Sustainability.

Illinois Geothermal Coalition Founding members:

  • The Illinois Water Resources Center
  • University of Illinois Facilities & Services
  • The Prairie Research Institute
  • The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE)
  • The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GeoExchange)
  • Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Affiliate members: Geothermal Alliance of Illinois; International Ground Source Heat Pump Association