Kulchin Foundation Drilling, a Redmond-based specialty contractor, recently completed the nation’s first geothermal foundation project at Art Stable, a residential building three blocks north of the REI Headquarters in Seattle.
High-density geothermal tubes were inserted into the piles to allow water to circulate below grade and absorb the earth’s natural ambient temperature and integrate with the in-building HVAC system, saving between 30-50 percent of heating and cooling energy usage, depending on the season, according to Tom Lapham Jr., Kulchin Business Development Manager.
The project is the first in the U.S. to use “living foundation” technology in which geothermal loops are installed directly into structural piles supporting the building, Lapham said.
Traditionally, geothermal loops are installed in non-structural holes located outside the footprint of the building, resulting in high extra cost and extended construction time, Lapham said.
“Integrating the loops into structural piles on Art Stable allowed the owners to utilize holes that had to be drilled anyway for the relatively low increased marginal cost of dropping loops into the piles,” Lapham said.
The project also makes use of tax incentives encouraging sustainability. The Federal Government offers a 10 percent tax rebate on geothermal ground source installation, as well as 5-year accelerated depreciation.
A ten-man crew worked on the geothermal portion of the project for Kulchin, learning the specifics of geothermal loop installation. Members of this crew can now train other crews, increasing the number of Green Collar jobs and adding to Northwest’s position as a leader in sustainability, according to Lapham.
Kulchin staff members believe Art Stable provides a blueprint for future projects to provide economically viable sustainable systems.
“Simply adding geothermal to our average annual job-load could reduce energy usage in Seattle by 44,000 megawatts” said company President Steve Kulchin.