Geothermal Energy Foundations Installation in Hydrosystems Lab

May 15, 2019

Geothermal Installation

CHAMPAIGN, IL – Geothermal energy foundations will be installed this summer as part of the Hydrosystems Laboratory addition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Substantial completion of the entire renovation project is expected in the summer of 2020.

This innovative method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions will incorporate conventional geothermal heat exchanger loops in the foundation of a new “smart” suspension pedestrian bridge that will connect the Hydrosystems Laboratory addition to the Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory across Main Street in Urbana. The construction method will use 50-foot-deep drilled shaft foundations to reduce overall geothermal installation costs and provide for onsite research, as well as heat and cool a new instructional geotechnical laboratory in the building for faculty including Dr. Tugce Baser, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE).

“This project will provide an invaluable opportunity for the university to conduct a scalability study from lessons learned during the installation and an excellent basis for a fundamental understanding of the operational response of the energy foundations,” Baser said.hydro1

Geothermal systems use the relatively constant underground temperature to provide heating and cooling at remarkably high efficiencies. The system functions by circulating fluid through heat exchangers in the ground leading to a heat pump in the building.

During installation, Baser will instrument the drilled shafts with thermistors and strain gauges to measure axial and radial strains, as well as temperature profiles, within the foundations. The data set from this installation will enable the evaluation of operational thermomechanical properties. Further, the data collected from this project will be used as an input for analyses by students in the graduate level CEE 585 Deep Foundations course.

Dr. Mohamed Attalla, executive director of Facilities & Services (F&S), said, “The outcomes of this project will be converted into design guidelines for future installation of energy foundations, which will significantly contribute to the sustainability of the campus.”

The $240K project is funded jointly by F&S and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment (iSEE), using the Carbon Credit Sales Fund, CEE, and a grant from the Student Sustainability Committee.

Through the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), the U of I has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by no later than 2050, and geothermal energy is one of several strategies the university is exploring to reduce its environmental impact.

iSEE also seed-funded Baser’s scalability study as part of its Campus as a Living Laboratory Program. Her research data gained at the laboratory site will further explore this state-of-the-art approach, inform the campus on the viability of geothermal, and help lead to additional installations on campus.

Media Contact:
Steve Breitwieser
Customer Relations & Communications


Department Contact:
Dr. Mohamed Attalla
Executive Director
Facilities & Services

News Release - Geothermal Energy Foundations PDF