M.S. Thesis: PART I: Demonstration Site for “Green Building” Technologies; PART II: Using Geothermal Energy In Place of Fossil Fuels

By Joseph Di Dio, III

Advisor: Profs. Nickolas J. Themelis

Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
Columbia University

August 2000

The Biosphere 2 Center (Bi02) in Oracle, Arizona has become renown as a one-of-a-kind , laboratory and micro-model of the Earth’s complex biogeochemical cycles. In the last five years, its mission has changed to reflect the educational and scientific goals of Columbia University, and is now dedicated to developing its large desert campus into a premier institution for environmental research and scholarship. Bi02’s guiding principles are to:

  • Strengthen and enhance the educational, research and public service missions of Columbia University
  • Develop Biosphere 2 as a leading center of environmental research and development
  • Develop Biosphere 2 as a center for intellectual exchange among industry, government and academic leaders
  • Provide models for energy efficient and environmentally friendly technology
  • Drive significant economic expansion in the Tucson community and the State of Arizona (Gresham & Beach, Master Fadlities Plan and Development Context Report)

A commitment to expanding the curriculum to include rigorous engineering courses as well as increasing the faculty and student populations at Bi02 will require an anchor of engineering projects to serve as laboratories and research topics. While the focus of the campus will continue to be the Biosphere dome itself, developing engineering projects in situ will become an increasingly important and visible feature of the Biosphere 2 Center in the years to come. Two large-scale engineering projects that are currently being considered for development fulfill these goals and are described in this report. Part 1 describes the development of a sample layout and plan for building a small high-performance model home. It is designed to serve as an exhibit of practical “green” technologies and energy-efficiency suitable for the average homeowner. Part 2 describes the creation of a zero-emissions hot dry rock (HDR) geothermal tri-generation facility to meet the present and future energy needs of the Biosphere 2 campus.

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