Ground used to heat, cool lakefront hotel
Finger Lakes Times, Friday October 18, 1996
By Craig Fox
GENEVA – Someone looking at the lakefront hotel construction site might think it’s been invaded by large black snakes.
All across the lot, black tubes poke several feet up from the ground and droop back toward the earth.
The tangle of tubing eventually will be the inner workings of a unique geothermal heating and cooling system for the six-story, 149-room Lakefront Ramada Inn.
The $500,000 system will use no fossil fuels, making it “environmentally correct,” said Graig Davis, Vice President of Chrisanntha, Inc., the Gorham company that will own the $12.7 million hotel.
Instead of natural gas, oil or electricity, the system will use the ground to either heat the hotel in the winter or cool it during the summer, Davis said.
“It’ll work like a big refrigerator, but in reverse,” Davis explained. “It will utilize the ground to draw heat out of it or as a cooling system in the summer months.”
Work crews are drilling nearly 200 wells to a depth of 150 feet and placing black polyethylene tubing inside. Once the system is installed, water will be pumped inside the tubing and will run through a series of loops through out the building. Each room will have separate heating units that will be controlled by individual thermostats, Davis explained.
The system works because the earth maintains a temperature of about 47 degrees 10 feet below the surface Davis said. Using that constant temperature, the ground will either heat the water running through the tubing or cool it, depending on the temperature above ground, he added.
Although the concept has become popular in the construction industry within the past five years, the geothermal system is rarely used in hotels becuase of the hefty price tag, Davis said.
“I don’t know of another hotel that has one,” Davis said.
While it has a large up-front cost, the system will save money in the long run because the hotel operators won’t have to pay to operate a conventional heating and cooling system, Davis said.
Heating and air conditioning expenses normally consume about 18 percent of a hotel’s revenues, but Chrisanntha officials hope to cut that amount to less than 3 percent because of the geothermal system.
Chrisanntha is working with representatives of the New York Sstate Electric & Gas Corp. on the project. The National Geothermal Association, a nationally known trade group, is also interested in the progress of the project.
That’s because the system will be the first one in the country that wlil be connected to a unique building foundation that the hotel will feature, Davis said. Some of the black tubing will be placed inside pilings – concrete-filled steel pipes driven into the ground to help support the hotel’s foundation, Davis explained.
While work on the heating and cooling system will continue for the next several weeks, contstruction crews last week started work on the building’s first story. Two cinderblock walls have been started on what will be the building’s northeast side.
Installation of the hotel’s prefabricated rooms is scheduled to start by Nov. 15. The modular rooms will be put on top fo each other much like a set of buliding blocks, Davis said.
The project remains on schedule for a May 1, 1997, opening, Davis said.
The hotel, located on a five acre parcel of lakefront property between East Washington and East Castle streets, will include a 120-seat restaurant, a 20-seat lounge/bar, banquet facilities to accommodate 250 people, and an indoor pool.