Knox Hall to Utilize Environmentally Clean Geothermal Wells

Knox Hall, located at Columbia affiliate Union Theological Seminary on 122nd Street and Broadway, will soon be the new home of Columbia University's Departments of Sociology and other institutions, where it will provide spaces for interdisciplinary thinking. While construction has already begun on the building's interior, the hallmark of Knox's renovations is its utilization of four 2,000-foot deep geothermal wells.

Knox Hall
Knox Hall at Union Theological Seminary

Knox's geothermal wells, each eight inches in diameter, will provide heating and cooling by drawing ground water from the earth. This water is circulated through the building's mechanical equipment to cool the heat they generate. The heated water is then returned to the ground and its absorbed heat is dissipated into the surrounding bedrock. The wells eliminate the less efficient chillers associated with more traditional systems.

"By coupling the building's mechanical systems with earth's natural resources, the geothermal wells at Knox Hall will allow for the installation of a sustainable system design which will benefit not only the University but the community as a whole," said Frances Huppert, associate vice president of capital project management.

By using this "greener" system, the University is projecting an energy savings of 50% - 60%. Additionally, since the wells do not require any unsightly mechanical equipment on Knox's roof or façade, the University will be able to respect the building's historical nature and existing architecture. In addition to the geothermal wells, Columbia University Facilities is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)certification for Knox Hall. LEED is the nationally accepted benchmark for design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. Knox joins the new Northwest Corner Building, the renovation of McVickar Hall for the new Columbia Alumni Center, the new geochemistry building at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the renovation of Faculty House as Columbia buildings currently pursuing LEED certification.

Completion of Knox Hall's renovations is projected for fall 2009.