Geothermal on Western: Fact

According Miami University students Western Campus is not the most desirable place to live. It is a hike to get to any other building, and the maze of bridges and paths leave many confused. But in a few years Western campus will be “the place to live” according to Associate University Engineer Doug Hammerle.

“In 2012 we plan on digging (geothermal) wells on Western Campus,” said Hammerle. “These new wells we plan on using to run all of Western Campus, including the three new residence halls and the new dining facility that are planned to open in the fall of 2014,” he said.

The wells that will help run all of Western Campus will be dug under the soccer fields. A lot of construction is going on right now at Miami University, but the construction will be done in the open areas of campus so it should not cause much a problem Hammerle said. The noise level will not be an issue either. “We will do anything to keep the noise down so work won’t start until 9 am each morning,” said Hammerle.  Moreover students can continue to reside on Western Campus throughout the digging of the wells.

“What we are really focusing on is trying to be more energy efficient, that’s why we are switching to geothermal energy,” said Hammerle.

Recently Elliott and Stoddard residence halls were converted to geothermal energy along with many other “green” renovations. However, many students are still stumped on what geothermal energy is.

According to Hammerle, geothermal energy is from the thermal energy generated and stored in the earth. Heat, hot water, and steam are captured down in the earth and then sent up through the pumps where they are converted into electricity. Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source because it is continually replenished by rainfall that seeps into the Earth.

“We dig wells underground and we add pumps down in the earth to circulate the heat,” said Hammerle. He said that by using a geothermal energy system like the one in Elliott and Stoddard, the university could get double the units of energy produced in a normal system. The geothermal energy system, which is designed by Mitsubishi, will help heat and cool buildings all throughout the year.

“We will use the Earth as a big heat transfer,” said Hammerle.

Besides converting Western Campus, Hammerle has been conducting a study to see what the cost will be to tie in Thompson and Clawson on the geothermal energy bill. Hoyt Hall is also under consideration. “It is one of the biggest energy users on the campus because it is the data center for the whole campus,” said Hammerle. A lot of big things are happening on campus and these are just some of the many possibilities yet to come.

In a recent interview with the Project Manager/Architect for Miami University Robert Bell, spoke about the new residence halls being built on Western Campus.  There will be three new residences halls housing just 230 students each, so over 600 students will be able to call Western Campus their new home.

“The new residence halls will have a new room type called an open suite,” said Bell. “They will incorporate more common living areas on all floors, not just on the first floor or lower levels.”

Each floor will have its own large study room, and from that study room there will be three wings that branch out. Each wing will have two pods within it, each pod housing 16 residents. Within each wing there will be two bathroom cores, a kitchenette, and a small study/living room. This wing will flow out into the much larger common area where the entrances to the other two wings will be.

“We are planning to incorporate another one of the energy saving ideas out there because we plan on achieving a LEED silver rating for these three buildings,” said Bell.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system where buildings accumulate points for things such as saving energy, and migrating storm runoff.

“The three halls will use geothermal energy for their heating and cooling,” said Bell. “(Also) there will be a small pond installed behind Bachelor Hall and the two residence halls that will be part of a storm management plan that will collect some of the water from the buildings as well as supply some water for irrigation for campus.”

Besides using geothermal energy for heating and cooling in the new dorms, Bell mentioned that there will also be low flow plumbing and insulated windows installed; similar to the ones added to Elliott and Stoddard Halls this past summer.

In a few years the hike to Western Campus may not seem so bad when the new residences halls are built. One residence hall will be built next to Havighust and the other two residence halls will be behind Bachelor.

Follow this URL to find a map of Western Campus and the proposed sites for the new residence halls:,-84.728006&spn=0.002765,0.003079

By: Kasey Meckert

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