From the outside, the new Buchanan & Hall building in Stratford’s Wright Business Park doesn’t look particularly remarkable.
But there are exciting things happening just below the surface.
That’s where a network of polyethylene pipes has been installed to capture heat from the earth and transfer it to the building, with the help of a heat pump and a circulating refrigerant liquid.
In the summer months, the system works in reverse to cool things down inside. Heat is basically pulled out of the building, and transferred back to the earth (or a hot water heater) through the same heat pump and network of pipes.
“It’s not magic,” said Buchanan & Hall owner Rob Anderson during an open house at the new facility Friday.
It just seems like it.
The geothermal or geoexchange “ground loop” system is efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly, with no fossil fuels burned and no greenhouse gases produced, noted Rose Anderson, who handles geothermal sales for the local HVAC company.
“This building is entirely carbon free,” she said proudly.
And it represents a new chapter for Buchanan & Hall, which had operated out of a smaller building near the corner of Huron Street and O’Loane Avenue for more than 60 years.
Last summer, construction started on the new facility on Wright Boulevard, which opened its doors in December.
“The main reason why we opted to do this is that we wanted to showcase the equipment we install, and all the things we do as a company,” she said. “And we wanted to demonstrate that you can do it in an economical, cost-effective way.”
Support for green energy was also an underlying factor.
“Eventually, what we want to do is try to make this a net zero building,” she said, where the total amount of energy used on the property is offset by the amount created there. “We will put solar panels on the roof eventually.”
And while geothermal heating and cooling is not new, there’s still some mystery and misconceptions around it, said Chad Brezynskie, vice president of sales and marketing at GeoSmart Energy.
“It’s perceived as this weird and different technology,” he said, suggesting that it’s actually quite simple and straightforward, essentially harnessing the solar energy that’s absorbed into the earth.
While the cost savings and efficiency rates can be significant – for every one unit of electrical energy used, a geothermal system can deliver 3-6 units of heat energy – the environmental benefits are a big draw for many, noted Brezynskie.
Despite some resistance to the provincial government’s green energy policies, geothermal is an option that simply shouldn’t be ignored, he said.
“We do know that we have a climate change issue,” he said. “And as things move forward, we have to look at technologies that will mitigate the burning of carbon.
“And we have those things right now.”