GeoExchange System for Solo District

One of the newest residential development in Vancouver that’s been turning heads lately is the Solo District project. Captained by Jim Bosa of Appia Developments, the neighbourhood development in North Burnaby, British Columbia will encompass more than six acres of land with four residential towers, each reaching higher than forty stories, with a total of 1400 dwellings. The buildings are targeting a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Platinum certification, the highest possible environmental standard for sustainability.

One part of the energy equation that is helping Solo meet LEED Platinum requirements is harnessing geothermal energy. Fēnix Energy was contracted by Appia to design and install a geothermal exchange system that will operate as an independent utility for the purpose of heating and cooling homes within the buildings. Via a network of pipes drilled deep into the ground, thermal energy is harvested from the building during the summer months and stored in the Earth’s crust. It is then reused during the cool winter months. The thermal energy is distributed as necessary through a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system.

“Solo District will be the largest water-based VRF system with GeoExchange in the world,” says Edward Smith, Managing Director of Fēnix Energy. “It was designed to be energy efficient and allow the sale of thermal energy and the creation of a utility model. It requires more investment to do so, but that investment is made back over time from the sale of thermal energy and increases efficiency.”

As with any sustainable building development, steps need to be put in place to make sure that mechanical systems such as heating, cooling and energy production stay at the forefront of technology as it emerges. Smith says that that the Solo District project is unique in this way, that the mechanical systems in place are both upgradeable and adaptable to other sources of renewable energy such as solar or wind.

“Because it’s a low-temperature operating system, any other sustainable energy options can be installed now or in the future,” he says. “That’s the fundamental difference between this system and a traditional district-sized energy system.”

With the first of the four buildings close to finishing construction and the second building having laid its foundations, Fēnix Energy continues to work with the project design teams to optimize the thermal energy utility.