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Bradley... into the blue by going green

Contractors from LaFramboise Well Drilling, Inc. work at drilling the initial holes of a geo-thermal unit for building 22 at Bradley ANG Base, East Granby, Conn. June 2, 2009. This geo-thermal unit is one of 11 being installed under the Department of Energy’s energy and improvement program.  The Conn. Air National Guard is just the third base within the Guard to adopt geo-thermal technology.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua A. Mead)

Contractors from LaFramboise Well Drilling, Inc. work at drilling the initial holes of a geo-thermal unit for building 22 at Bradley ANG Base, East Granby, Conn. June 2, 2009. This geo-thermal unit is one of 11 being installed under the Department of Energy’s energy and improvement program. The Conn. Air National Guard is just the third base within the Guard to adopt geo-thermal technology. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua A. Mead)

A well driller drills for the installation of building 22’s geo-thermal unit on June 2nd, 2009, at Bradley ANG Base, East Granby, Conn. The process of installing a geo-thermal unit to augment building heating and cooling requires piping to be placed 250 feet down to allow sufficient time for water to cool or warm to the surrounding dirt’s core temperature of around 50 degrees. This construction is part of the base efforts to reduce energy costs while transforming the base for relevancy in the future.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua A. Mead)

A well driller drills for the installation of building 22’s geo-thermal unit on June 2nd, 2009, at Bradley ANG Base, East Granby, Conn. The process of installing a geo-thermal unit to augment building heating and cooling requires piping to be placed 250 feet down to allow sufficient time for water to cool or warm to the surrounding dirt’s core temperature of around 50 degrees. This construction is part of the base efforts to reduce energy costs while transforming the base for relevancy in the future. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua A. Mead)

BRADLEY ANG BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- With the advent of the base transformation, the Bradley footprint is getting a make-over to accommodate future missions and to comply with National Guard Bureau mandates. In past weeks, the base has been littered with contractors of various trades doing work that will help make base facilities relevant for future missions by installing state-of-the-art, green systems that will reduce energy costs.

"This base will see construction in some fashion, with what's already happened with our Com-duct project, all the way through 2020," said Scott Pearsall, project manager, 103rd Civil Engineering Squadron, from construction renovation projects of antiquated buildings to geo-thermal heating and cooling units.

The proposed concept presented in the base master plan is to transform Bradley into more of a campus environment, where members can walk from facility to facility. These facilities will be refurbished in a fashion to promote retention by being presentable and livable. This will make the 103rd Airlift Wing, in Lt. Col. James Works' words, commander, 103rd Civil Engineering Squadron, "an employer of choice."

"No one wants to work in a 50-year-old dungeon."

"If you look at our master plan, we're only building one new building out of all the stuff we're doing here, because we are creatively reutilizing space we already have, which is the more cost effective way of doing things," said Works.

The buildings that will be renovated are 18, which will be turned over to the Air Operations Group, and the old Avionics building, 22, is being made over to accommodate the Operations Group. A new firehouse will be built and the Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility will increase its footprint with a new addition.

"In the next couple of years, the hangar will have a corrosion and fuel barn, and a maintenance dock, offices and shop areas," said Pearsall. "The pecking order might change but this is the plan."

Lastly, Vehicle Maintenance will occupy the old weapons building. Focusing on renovations and designing and building facilities with more than one purpose in mind has expanded the unit's potential for relevancy in the future.

"Besides the relevancy of our missions, we need to be relevant from a cost stand point. Being relevant is being role models," said Works.

According to Pearsall, the 103rd was nominated for an Air Force design award for its base master plan. The unit's plan will be the first within the National Guard to be placed on the A7, Installations and Mission Support directorate, web portal, and will serve as a benchmark for other units.

Additionally, Bradley Air National Guard Base is the third within the National Guard to adopt geo-thermal technology and implement it into its heating and cooling systems.

As Works explained, these geo-thermal units basically act as giant heat pumps. They pump water down a well 250 feet below the surface to reach a steady temperature of about 50 degrees. From there, the water is pumped back to the building where an air exchange takes place as the 50 degree temperature is either heated or cooled to a desired temp.

The gas and electrical systems are not eliminated in this process, but the demand on them is reduced. The geo-thermal units provide a baseline temperature so our heating units don't have to heat the cold New England winter air, while our air conditioners don't have to try and cool the muggy summer air, said Works.

"We are hoping to reduce our energy output by easily 25 percent from what we have to do to cool the building from year to year."

The Department of Defense requires reduction of energy sources such as electric and gas by 30 percent over fifteen years, or two percent a year.

"Our intent with all the geo-thermal systems is; you maximize what you can where spaces are, where you have a large gathering space that you need one weekend a month for about an hour and a half," said Works. "Okay, well, I have a unit that can make you comfortable while you're there but will shut off the rest of the time. That's really how you get a lot of your savings."

"The original payback was six years, and I haven't re-calculated to see what it is looking like. Again, those were based on 2003, 2004 rates and the utility rates have gone up probably 80 percent since then. So, it will payback very quickly," he said.

The geo-thermal unit was not the only technology civil engineering planned to adopt. For a time, photovoltaic panels were considered as an idea for the roof of the hangar to harness solar power and turn it into electricity. Ultimately, the geo-thermal units were chosen as the alternative for heating and cooling.

"We have looked at a lot of other smaller technologies; we are trying to acquire some Airus fans. We have some in a couple buildings already and we're trying to put some in the hangar," said Works.

These fans work basically like mini jet engines. They suck air through their turbines, blending the air on the floor with that of the ceiling.

"Most rooms roughly have a 5 degree difference from the floor to ceiling. The hangar could be as much as 10 to 15 degree difference because of the height," Works said.
This process of blending air and maintaining temperature rather than forcing hot or cold air to warm or cool a building is contrary to what was practiced in the 50's. Now, the natural temperature of the Earth is used to help control working environments.

"We did a lot of heating and cooling from the 50's to the 70's through sheer might. It got the job done, but it wasn't efficient," said Works.

There is reason to be excited by all the base build up, green technology and forward thinking with relevancy in mind. "People get excited when they see heavy equipment and dirt flying," said Pearsall. However, besides dirt flying in the name of progress, Bradley has a mission to keep airplanes flying to support our country.

"Our vision here in Civil Engineering is to make the base relevant for whatever the missions are. When we are designing for our new missions, we are designing with the flexibility for follow-on missions," said Works.