Fēnix Blog: Patented Drilling Technology Enables ‘No Disruption’ for High-rise Buildings

First geo-exchange retrofit of its kind in the world

Recently we looked at the business case for a retrofit GeoExchange and how different financial and non-financial factors affect a company’s decision to install this type of heating and cooling system. One part of that business case is to consider how the actual retrofit work impacts the operation of the building and in the case of a commercial property, the building’s tenants.

As the first GeoExchange retrofit of its kind in the world, the project at the Pacific Centre in Downtown Vancouver (777 Dunsmuir) was a learning experience for Fēnix Energy, not so much with the installation itself but with how to work around the particular needs of the client, in this case the owner of the Pacific Centre, Cadillac Fairview.

“The GeoExchange systems we were putting in aren’t new, what was new was our installation equipment and how we did the installation,” says Hart Starr Crawford, Fēnix Energy’s project manager.

“With this being the first retrofit of its kind, learning how to drill and not disrupt the tenants from a business perspective was new for us.”

Our equipment designed for cleanliness

Having to drill 34 bore holes in the lowest level of the parkade – each almost 400 feet deep – was a challenge while working alongside the daily routine of the Pacific Centre. A particular concern of Cadillac Fairview was the drilling and installation and how that would affect the building’s commercial tenants. and minimizing the impacts on the customer experience – including access – was paramount.

“Traditional drilling can be, and typically is, a very messy process,” says Starr Crawford.

“Our equipment is specifically designed for cleanliness. A lot of time and care went in to keeping our noise down and keeping the work area as clean as possible.”

While the noise from the specialized drilling equipment is far from that of a pounding jackhammer on a construction site (Starr Crawford describes it as a soft hum from two levels away), Fēnix Energy worked with Cadillac Fairview to conduct most of their drilling operations at night. Cuttings such as rock from the drill holes also had to be disposed of by hauling it out to the loading bay for collection, as well as handling the high volume of drilling mud or “slurry” that helps float debris to the surface of the drill hole. All this needed to be carried out while minimizing mess and disruption to public vehicle traffic in the parkade.

“We were lucky in the way that we had a decent amount of access and space in their loading bay,” says Starr Crawford. “There were a lot of small changes to our methods along the way, but no challenges that we weren’t able to overcome.”

Article by Vince Shuley