Green Building: Geothermal Heating & Cooling Options

geothermal-heating-and-coolingAs we continue to seek out more efficient and more environmentally friendly ways to heat and cool our office buildings, the geothermal heating & cooling systems available today are paving the way.

If you have been thinking about one of these solutions, you may have a few questions.

Is the Geothermal System Efficient?

Yes. Geothermal has 50% efficiency rate in heating and 20% to 30% increased efficiency in cooling. These percentages are in comparison to typical heating and cooling systems on the market today. This percentage of efficiency also translates directly into cost savings on the energy bills.

Are They As Comfortable As Typical Systems?

Yes. Using your existing ductwork in most cases, these systems utilize heated (90 to 100 degrees) air in greater volumes which results in more even heating.  You may be familiar with traditional systems and the occasional cold air spots in buildings. Geothermal systems will remove that problem completely as heating is more thorough.

Are Geothermal Systems Expensive?

Yes. Geothermal installations are expensive. However, they can bring significant savings over a period of time.  The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association’s website informs us that the Geothermal systems usually provide 25-50% savings on energy consumption and offer lower peak demand resulting in lower operating costs.

Are Geothermal Systems More Environmentally Friendly?

Yes. By using a naturally sustainable heat source it lowers the carbon footprint of operations.

As you search for energy efficiency in your business practices, we can help you determine if Geothermal system might benefit your situation. We can also recommend other ways in which you can lower the carbon footprint of your small business. Please contact us for more information.

Sustainability Assessment Tools- Small to Medium Sized Businesses

Some organizations want to conduct their own sustainability assessments. If so, here are some assessment tools and resources;

 

eco-officiency: Developed in Excel, this sustainability assessment tool has over 360 questions customized for each primary area and department of an organization. Departments include Administration, HR, IT, Facilities and Operations, Marketing and Communications, Purchasing, Finance, Accounting, Product and Research/Development, Events and Conferences. Organizations can have departments answer the questions themselves or it can be conducted at a management meeting. The cost to download this sustainability assessment is $75.

Three Steps to Eco-Efficiency, Canada: This assessment tool was developed by the Ministry of Environment of Canada to assist small and medium-sized manufacturers to develop an eco-efficiency program that is custom tailored to their business needs. The tool is a free download.

Earth Charter: This assessment is a free download available from Earth Charter International. The assessment is designed to improve practices based on the Earth Charter principles.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Measuring Impact Framework: The WBCSD developed a framework to assess the contribution of business to the economic and broader development goals in the societies where business operates. It is designed to help companies understand their contribution to society and use this understanding to inform their operational and long-term investment decisions, and have better-informed conversations with stakeholders.

The International Society of Sustainability Professionals released in 2010 a consolidated list of Sustainability Assessments. For members it is a free download and for non-members there is a fee to download.

Sustainability Assessment Questions: Understanding Your Footprint

Although there are robust and technical environmental audits, often small companies don’t necessarily need such detail to understand their environmental impacts. Smaller companies can conduct sustainability assessments that are more geared to their business. Assessments not only review the footprint of organization operations but will also identify opportunities to improve environmental stewardship, save money, improve productivity and increase customer and employee loyalty.

To conduct your own sustainability assessment, reach out to each department or division of a company and hold informational interviews. Although more information can be gathered through in-person meetings, an organization can also conduct an assessment via an online survey. Develop a series of questions that ask specifically what each area is doing to reduce resource use and minimize environmental impact.  Some organizations also like to assess the social side of business and determine how employees are engaged in the community and the non-profit organizations they support.

Here are is a list of some sample questions to ask by each sustainability topic area:

Waste Management: Is recycling provided as an option? If so, what percentage of the employees participates in office recycling?

Suppliers and Purchasing: Are office supplies purchased made from post-consumer recycled material? How many of your vendors are local suppliers? Has your purchasing department developed in guidelines that take into account green businesses practices?

Paper Reduction: What paper reduction policies and/or practices has the company done? Is the company’s marketing giveaways made from recycled material and/or recyclable?

Energy Conservation: How has your company tried to reduce energy? Do you own any energy star equipment? Does staff turn off equipment in the evenings?

Water Conservation: How has your company tried to reduce water? What water saving devices are installed in your facilities?

Toxins and Chemicals: What types of cleaning chemicals are used in your office? Is there any toxic or hazardous material located at the facilities?

Transportation: If you have a transportation fleet, what measures have you taken to reduce driving?

Employees: Does the company have any communications educating employees about conservation of resources?

Philanthropy: How does your company contribute to the community? Donations? Volunteer programs?