Vancouver's Fenix Energy Helps to Makes Geo-Exchange a More Affordable Reality
We all produce heat. In winter we need more, summer, we want the opposite. Every day in all seasons, facilities managers work to ensure those who inhabit their office, condos and shopping centres are comfortable. Making us comfortable takes a whole lot of energy-and with that the price of a large carbon footprint.
"Fenix Energy has pioneered a new approach to installing renewable energy in urban centres that shaves months off new construction timelines." says a Vancouver-based cleantech firm.  This is big news.
Like other renewable energy projects, existing infrastructure can act as an inhibitor to technologies such as geo-exchange. But with the right solution and commitment, geo-exchange can take on a greater role in greening buildings.
According to the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition, geo-exchange is a term used to describe "an alternative to traditional oil- gas- or coal-fired heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems."  The technology is also known as geothermal heat pump systems. Since the ground has both heating and cooling properties, through technology we can harness it to heat and cool buildings, instead of using fossil fuels. "This heat 'exchange' between the ground and the building is accomplished by using standard pump and compressor technology." 
Aside from reducing the carbon emissions associated with fossil fuels, geo-exchange saves a whole lot of money. The only caveat is that a geo-exchange system is installed prior to a building's construction stage, because it requires a horizontal drilling underground. That is about to change with the Fenix Energy approach.
What's different about the Fenix Energy method?
By drilling vertically, there is minimal disruption to existing surroundings. Recently a completed project at the soon-to-be headquarters of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) set a new precedent in construction methodology. Fenix Energy completed the installation of a geo-exchange system after the building's first three floors were in place. "Unlike a conventional geo-exchange installation, this unique approach allowed for trades such as plumbing, electrical and glazing to be on-site, working in parallel with the drilling process." 
Saving time and money for a construction project can sometimes determine whether or not an alternative energy solution is implemented. "Fenix Energy's new approach shortens overall project timelines from two to four months, improving cash flow for the builder and providing a competitive advantage in the green building market," reads a news release for the ETFO project. 
The new ETFO headquarters, located in Toronto, will include office, classroom and meeting space. The design firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB), and construction firm Bird Construction are integral to the implementation of this sort of innovative project. Taking a collaborative approach to the design and construction of buildings is paramount because it can lead to 'outside the box' thinking. Buildings have a long lifespan so the decisions we make today, affect the future - specifically, how much energy we use and how clean the energy source is.
Why does this technology matter?
With buildings as one of the largest sources of global GHGs, clean technologies can provide some of the solution. However, the answer to our environmental problems is hardly an issue of technology only. Firms such as Fenix Energy, among many other companies, provide the tools to reduce our collective environmental footprint. It is up to decision makers and businesses to see the opportunity and invest for the long-term.
To learn more visit Fenix Energy's website HERE
 F?nix Energy: Cleantech Firm F?nix Energy Proves Concept - Shaves Months off Construction Timeline for New Commercial Building (press release August 21, 2012)
 Canadian GeoExchange Coalition: What is GeoExchange?
  F?nix Energy: Cleantech Firm F?nix Energy Proves Concept - Shaves Months off Construction Timeline for New Commercial Building (press release August 21, 2012)
Meirav Even-Har is a Justmeans staff blogger. She reports on Canadian CSR issues. Meirav is an independent sustainability consultant and writer working in Toronto, Canada.