University of Albany residential hall employs geothermal heat pumps to provide power

While much has been said about renewable energy technologies like wind farms and solar panels, one means – ground or geothermal heat pump – is now beginning to emerge as a viable source of power for American buildings. The University of Albany announced that it will be employing this unique electricity source to provide electricity to its new Liberty Terrace residential hall.

The building, which was partially funded thanks to a grant from the U.S. Energy Department (DoE) that totalled $2.7 million, is built to house 500 students. According to the DoE, the geothermal heat pump built into the foundation of the residence is expected to provide enough energy to cut power consumption by roughly 50 percent compared to other residential halls at the university. These measures, school officials estimate, will save the school approximately $300,000 per year.

"Liberty Terrace is one of the many structural enhancements occurring across campus to help us prepare for the next generation of UAlbany students," the school's president, George Phillip, said in a statement published by the DoE. "The facility supports student success while advancing the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability."

Other design elements, such as water-permeable pavement and LED lighting systems, are expected to reduce the environmental impact of the residence. The designers incorporated recycled building materials and installed a green roof, the latter of which utilizes special types of plants to absorb rainwater and sunlight and reduce building erosion.

This new living facility may become a trendsetter for other schools trying to reduce costs following a reduction in state and federal operations aid. In addition to the economic benefits, green residential halls provide a level of prestige that could, in time, lead to more examples of this kind of low-impact living.

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