The University of Illinois is deploying a long-term sustainability strategy to reduce its carbon footprint and is committed to being carbon neutral by 2050. In its ongoing efforts, the university integrates an innovative geothermal system with the foundation of a new extension of the hydro system lab located in 301 N. Mathews Ave. The Hydrosystem Lab's renovation is the latest addition in the process of the CEE initiative to modernizing its facilities and teaching methods. The initiative focuses on project-based learning and hands-on experimentation. The Facilities & Services (F&S), in collaboration with Dr. Baser, are using the 50-foot-deep shafts already being drilled for the foundation of a new "smart" bridge that connects the Newmark Civil engineering lab with the Hydro-system Lab to integrate geothermal system pipes that circulate water heated or cooled under the earth. This $240,000 installation approach is 30-40% cheaper than the conventional methods of geothermal systems by drilling separate boreholes for the exchanger loops. "It is a fairly new technology. The university will be the first in the nation to have this kind of research going on in our work here," said Dr. Attalla, F&S Executive Director.    

Aside from heating and cooling the new laboratory, the drilled shafts are equipped with thermistor and strain gauges to measure strain and temperature profiles. The data collected will set the stage for a wide range of further studies and serve as a base for research proposals. "The project will provide an invaluable opportunity for the university to conduct a scalability study from the lesson learned during the installation and an excellent basis for a fundamental understanding of energy foundations' operational response," said Dr. Baser, Assistant professor of CEE.   Furthermore, Facility and Services is planning to utilize the outcome of this project to study the impact of the expansion on geothermal energy generation and storage on campus energy management and acquire the experience to optimize the construction, operation, and maintenance of geothermal system integrated with the built environment. Additionally, the project outcome will help developing policies for integrating groundwater and geothermal systems with the campus energy mix. "The outcome of this project will be converted into design guidelines for future installation of energy foundation, which will significantly contribute to campus sustainability," said Dr. Attalla.