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What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

The following article by Andrew Kiraly for the June 2017 Issue of Architecture Las Vegas.

You probably think I’m going to write about the design of Cashman Equipment Company’s campus in Henderson — how, say, the building’s slick, self-assured muscularity and bold colors cleverly reference the earth-moving machines it sells. But what’s of real interest is literally beneath the surface — 400 feet below the surface, to be exact.

#workspaceSHDesigned by SH Architecture, the Cashman building uses a ground-source heat pump to dramatically curtail its heating and cooling costs. Which sounds somewhat mundane, until you delve into the fascinating details of how it works. Four-hundred wells drilled 400 feet deep beneath the parking lot circulate a conducting fluid that uses the earth’s subsurface temperature to help heat and cool the building. “Because the earth is a pretty consistent temperature in the low 60s, it can serve as a temperature moderator for heating or cooling air,” explains Eric Roberts, AIA, a director at SH Architecture. At exchange plates in each building, the fluid transfers the heat to the air system — essentially, pre-heating it or pre-cooling it — before it’s processed by the a/c unit.

“This makes the furnaces run efficiently or, as is the case with many Southern Nevada winter days, not need to run at all,” Roberts says. “So we can eliminate the need for gas heating in the buildings.” Other design elements maximize energy savings. With daylight available in every space, lights automatically turn off or on depending on natural light levels, and a pyrometer on the roof communicates the sun’s location to the building’s shade systems, which adjust to keep light levels and heat levels in a sensible balance. Other buildings designed by SH Architecture employ ground-source heat pumps, such as Northwest Career and Technical Academy (one of the school district’s most energy-effcient schools), Henderson Heritage Aquatic Center, and Corn Creek Field station at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.