Approach. Our aim is to utilize as many eco conscious, "green" and energy smart techniques as possible without comprimising the building's architectural heritage or structural integrity.
Geothermal Heating/Cooling System: The upper 10 feet of the Earth’s surface remains 50-60 degrees at all times. Geothermal climate systems tap this resource to produce five units of heating and cooling for every one unit of electricity used. They can also provide pre-tempered water to in-floor heat systems and domestic hot water heaters. Geothermal systems do not create noise pollution, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, or other greenhouse gasses.
Passive Solar Hot Water: This straightforward rooftop system uses UV rays from the sun to heat water for domestic use and in-floor heat. As warmer water naturally rises and cooler water sinks, a “syphon effect” circulates water through a high efficiency tank. The system is also integrated with a high efficiency gas or electric water heater to provide ample hot water when the sun’s rays are in short supply.
Photovoltaic (PV) Energy System: Our sustainable rooftop design can accommodate an array of solar PV panels capable of generating approximately 30-50 kilowatt hours (kwh) per day in our region. Put in perspective, this system’s average daily energy production could power 10 Energy Star rated refrigerators and 200 LED lightbulbs (60 watt equivalent) for 24 hours.
Solar Awning: In addition to roof-mounted PV panels, a solar awning on the South end of the building could generate enough electricity to keep two electric vehicles charged.
A Grid Tied Approach: While solar energy may be stored in batteries for later use, a system can also be tied into the electric grid. This allows surplus energy to be fed back into the grid for use by others. Even when no extra power is produced, the building’s solar systems meet most or all of its energy needs – once again, lessening draw on the grid and leaving more power available to the community.
Thermal Chimney (Stack Effect): With the strategic placement of vents, the three-story shaft that was once used to hang and dry fire hoses can help cool the building in summer months. Natural vertical convection will move warm air up and out, and in turn, create a vacuum that draws cooler replacement air in from low vents on the shaded side of the building. No power is needed. In addition, the shaft can still house a stairway, small elevator, or even a recreational climbing wall, without compromise to the cooling stack effect.
On-Site Parking and Electric Vehicle Support: In an effort to preserve neighborhood parking, space for 4 vehicles and/or a garage has been allocated in the South lot. If necessary, the Northeast and West sides of the lot can accommodate an additional 4-6 cars. Access to power for charging electric vehicles is part of our design.
Exterior Insulation Envelope: With insulation currently on the interior of the second level only, the firehouse poses challenges in terms of thermal efficiency. Moreover, as the first level is clad with glazed fire brick and decorative terra cotta, covering these unique treasures with framing isn’t an option. With that in mind, we have developed a strategy for further insulating the building from the exterior. This approach would create an efficient insulation envelope without compromising the firehouse’s historic identity and integrity.
Thermal Massing: Excellent sun exposure and thick masonry walls offer opportunities to utilize “Thermal Massing” techniques as part of our alternative energy plan. Materials such as brick, cement, stone and water absorb heat (sun) and cold (shade) during the day, store it, then slowly radiate it back at night. This energy can be used to slow interior temperature fluctuations. For example, thermal mass of the firehouse’s South wall (40’x30’x1’) can store the BTU equivalent of a gallon of propane for every 3 degrees it is heated or cooled. Similarly, drums of water placed in the greenhouses during the winter will act as a heat sink, keeping interior temperatures stable on cold nights with little or no supplemental heat.
Wind Power: The firehouse’s height, alley-side location, ample lot/rooftop space, and proximity to plentiful lakefront breezes make it a prime candidate for wind power options. While we have not yet fully explored this application, there are now many homes, mixed use buildings, restaurants and large office buildings tapping into the plentiful natural resource that gave The Windy City its name.
Synergistic Efficiency: When energy production is combined with efficiency and conservation, the resulting benefits are greater than the sum of the individual components. An LED lightbulb, for example, uses only one-tenth the electricity of a standard bulb, lasts 40x longer, and emits 90% less heat and carbon dioxide. This not only draws less energy, but also lowers cooling bills in the Summer and reduces waste.