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Using Geothermal Energy for Sustainable Construction

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The construction industry has made large strides in the development of new sustainable technologies and practices over the past decade. Geothermal energy is one of the newer technologies that is beginning to gain traction and become more mainstream in the industry. 

Geothermal Energy: a sustainable heat source

Geothermal energy is one of the game-changing developments because of its eco-friendly, cost-effective and sustainable nature. More abundant and environmentally responsible than fossil fuel, this renewable energy source is opening doors to new options for heating and cooling our homes, schools and buildings responsibly and reducing global warming.

FACT: The amount of heat within 10,000 meters (about 33,000 feet) of Earth’s surface contains 50,000 times more energy than all the oil and natural gas resources in the world.

What is geothermal energy?

Geothermal energy is thermal energy, or heat, generated and stored inside the Earth. It is created by the constant conduction of thermal energy between the Earth’s molten core and the planet’s much cooler surface. If you’ve ever been to a hot spring, then you’ve experienced this type of heat first-hand.

While geothermal heat has been traced back to the Paleolithic times, nearly 2.6 million years ago, it hasn’t always been widely usable. This is because of the staggering cost it used to take to dig wells and the fact that high amounts of geothermal energy are only found near tectonic plate boundaries—or the spaces between plates within the earth’s crust.

How geothermal wells are changing construction

Today, with the advancement of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), or engineered reservoirs created to produce energy from geothermal resources that are otherwise not economical due to lack of water and/or permeability, countries all over the world are harnessing this sustainable natural resource to reduce their carbon footprints2. And with the continual advancements in EGS, geothermal energy may one day be able to supply 100% of the United States’ energy needs.

Geothermal energy in action

The Brock Environmental Center is utilizing geothermal energy as its main heating and cooling source as it targets net-zero energy and water. By taking advantage of the Earth’s constant temperature (about 54° in this region) geothermal wells, located 250 feet below the Earth’s surface, are circulating liquid to extract cool temperatures from the ground in the summer and warm temperatures in the winter. The Brock Environmental Center is the first of its kind and is serving as an international model of sustainability and educational tool to promote environmentally friendly design and stewardship.

Learn more about the Brock Environmental Center’s geothermal wells here.

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