By Dave Noel, who recently retired from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science after serving for 10 years as vice president of facilities, capital projects and sustainability.
In 2009, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science initiated the design process for the Morgridge Family Exploration Center, a new addition designed with the primary goal of being a green facility to support the museum’s mission of being a leader in sustainability.
And, with water being the most valuable commodity in the West, the museum partnered with Denver Water to implement an innovative and efficient system using recycled water. The recycled water runs through pipes that are buried deep underground in a process known as geothermal exchange. The earth maintains consistent temperatures throughout the year, so the water in the pipe is cooled by the earth in the summer and warmed in the winter. This water is then used to heat and cool the new addition.
After the recycled water passes through the pipe to heat or cool the building, it returns to the recycled water line — meaning no water is actually lost in the process. And, this innovative implementation of geothermal exchange technology significantly reduces the energy required to heat and cool the new 126,000-square-foot addition by 60 percent — helping the museum meet its aggressive sustainability and energy efficiency goals.
The museum was awarded a $2.5 million grant by the Department of Energy to develop the system as a demonstration project and collect data on the system’s performance.
Denver Water has never put water back into its recycled water lines in the past, and according to our research at the museum, this technique to recirculate water back into the recycled water line has not been implemented anywhere in the country before. Typically, geothermal heat exchange projects have their own piping loops or wells underground, which come at a substantial cost.
From our installation of waterless urinals and low-flush toilets to our low-water landscape with native plants irrigated with recycled water, the museum is very excited to take our water conservation practices to the next level with this innovative pilot program and partnership.