College of Engineering Collaborates on “Green” Renovation

A new pipe rising out of the ground in front of Fedigan Hall marks the site of the campus’s first geothermal well. The installation of this ground source heat pump system—a key step in the “green” renovation of the 80-year-old dormitory—resulted from the collaboration of the College of Engineering, the Facilities Management Office, and ARB GeoWell Systems, a company that develops technologies related to the use of standing column wells in the heating and cooling of buildings.

Beginning in 2007, Dr. Alfonso Ortega, the College’s Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research and the James R. Birle Professor of Energy Technology, undertook research for ARB GeoWell to make the heat exchange in its technology more efficient. For the project, Dr. Ortega and his team of graduate and undergraduate students built a 20-foot-high transparent simulator. “We photographed water as it flowed through the column, enabling the company to observe what was happening in its system,” Dr. Ortega said.

Meanwhile, the College and John Cacciola, PE, LEED, ’93, Villanova’s Assistant Vice President for Engineering and Construction, were discussing how to incorporate into Fedigan Hall’s renovation renewable energy practices that would provide learning and research opportunities for faculty and students. One suggestion: installing ground source heat pumps to support a portion of the heating and cooling load.

Having bid on and won the job, ARB GeoWell installed the first well this winter. Doctoral student Kevin Woods BSME ’07, MSME ’08 is using data collected thus far to build a computational model to study the well’s performance and, eventually, to derive a control algorithm for multiple wells.

According to Dr. Albert Koenig, Vice President of ARB GeoWell, this collaboration benefits all the stakeholders. “We improve our technology, students perform real-world engineering, the College gains new knowledge, and Facilities Management makes the campus greener.”

Perhaps what is most impressive is the spirit of cooperation and shared vision underlying this project. “People across the University have worked hand in hand to determine priorities and create a model for future renovations,” Mr. Cacciola said.

transparent simulator
The 20-foot-high transparent simulator allows researchers to study standing column well technology.
Kevin Woods
Doctoral student Kevin Woods has been a member of the project team since 2007