Geothermal heating/cooling, rain collecting roof among big steps at new Livingston Street center

Construction of the new recreation and cultural center at Livingston Street is well underway, and the first phase of the project is expected to be completed early next year. But some of the energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable elements of the project are already beginning to emerge.

The Livingston center will be the first construction by the City of Asheville to pursue a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold rating since a 2007 vote by Asheville City Council mandated that all new municipal buildings meet at least that level of certification.

“This is nice precedent, to have a building at this level,” says project manager Al Kopf, from the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department.

Probably the most prominent design feature for people passing by the site at the corner of Livingston and Depot Streets is the “butterfly” roof, designed to collect rain water both for cisterns and to channel water into collection basins that reduce stormwater sediment runoff.

But another green feature for the center lies underground and out of sight: geothermal technology that will heat and cool the center. Beneath what is slated to become part of the center’s parking area, engineers drilled six holes 450 feet underground to tap into the naturally more stable subsurface temperature. Fluid-filled tubes run from a heat pump inside the 8,000 square-foot facility and into the six-inch wide bore holes, where they draw or release heat underground.

Conventional heat pumps typically exchange heat to or from the outside air, which experiences wide fluctuations in temperature. The geothermal wells, on the other hand, stay in the neighborhood of 55 degrees year round regardless of the weather or season.

“The ground stays a relatively similar temperature, so it becomes a good effective heat exchange,” says Jerome Hay from Sud Associates, the firm contracted to install the geothermal system.

The underground geothermal technology was installed over the past summer, but there’s plenty more to come for the center’s green elements. Apart from collecting rainwater, the building’s roof will have living vegetation in some sections, and the remainder will have an energy-efficient reflective index.

Jane Mathews, of Mathews Architecture, which has been contracted to track the building’s LEED compliance, notes that 90 percent of the spaces in the building will have natural lighting, and all corridors will be lit by sunlight. The center will also utilize low-flow plumbing fixtures and high-efficiency lighting.

The impact of construction is also closely tracked during the building process, with at least 80 percent of the materials from the demolition of previous structures having been recycled. Materials going into the new facility include recycled tile and Forest Stewardship Certified lumber. Wherever possible, building materials travel no more that 500 miles to get to the site.

“You have to credit City Council for taking the initiative and setting the bar this high,” Mathews says.

Click here to see more information about the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts initiatives.