Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hydro Building... things we don't know

Hydro has enough problems on the go, so it's little wonder the only guy chasing the non story of the Hydro Tower's poor performance is Gordon Sinclair Jr.

I typically can't force myself to read most of his stuff. I usually stop at the headline, but today was different. He actually got me reading. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/columnists/33841749.html

It was 2008, and my wife (who I was dating at the time, and trying to impress with my vast knowledge) were at a movie at the Globe Theater at Portage Place. As she came into the lobby, she caught me staring out the window, looking at the opening glazing on the building under construction. "What are you looking at?" she asked. "Technology that can't work", I said. "I don't see the pay back, or even the engineering working. My guess is that in the deep cold, people in there will be uncomfortable."

I didn't want to bore her, or come across as a know it all who never went to school for such things, and doesn't make anywhere near the money all the engineers, consultants, or Hydro brass make. I didn't want to sound too arrogant, knowing I really don't "know" these things, I just "feel" them.

I feel them by interpreting what I DON'T hear. I don't hear about how great MEC's geo thermal system works. I don't hear about all the awards still coming in for being energy efficient after actually running the building through a few winters, and in my books, not hearing about it makes it something that's being hushed up. If MEC was really shaving 60% off a regular similar buildings heating loads, I'd have charts on the walls trumpeting the success. So much of their spiel is "guilting" people into being "green", you'd think they'd try convincing us by trumpeting the great savings they have by spending all that money at the front end.

I was talking whit a geo-technical engineer who was associated with an organization that is quite well known in the "green" and "alternative" building circles. He had told me that he heard that the aquifer below MEC is moving too quickly, and they just can't extract enough heat out of it. Maybe that's just a myth... perhaps he was just gossipping... maybe he wasn't quite as informed as he said... or...?

A quick check for stories about the ongoing efficiency of that building turned up nothing. Maybe it's there, and I just didn't find it, but all I came across was the "rah-rah" speculation and "targets", nothing actually letting us know if the building ever met the targets. Why not?

They drilled a lot of very deep holes below the Hydro Building. I knew a guy working for PCL at the time of construction who suggested that they were well behind the projected construction schedule because they had to increase the amount of holes they needed to drill for the geo-thermal systems. Again... this isn't an "educated" comment, it's just from some guy who was working there, on site, who didn't need to keep anything quiet. The people in the know are educated, but I'm guessing they don't want to say. The problems were blamed on the "foundation". http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/historic/32841494.html

I recall there was a story about a big wigs office being hot... apparently all that glazing lets in... heat. I couldn't find the story of the office being moved, but there was a comment in the FreeP by "taxpayer",
http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letters-of-the-day-dont-blame-hydro-51207487.html?path=/opinion/letters_to_the_editor&id=51207487&sortBy=newest  . While this doesn't count as a real "source", I'm not a real reporter. I remember reading about the plebs who had to stay behind needing to use electric fans to keep cool. It was blamed on the systems needing to be "tweaked". Something like today's story, where the official line is,

 Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider confirmed there are still places in the building that need heating "adjustments."
He called it a "breaking-in period."
"It's just typical of any building you open up," Schneider said.

We just need to substitute "heating" with the words "air conditioning".  For those who don't understand the system, geothermal is supposed to do both. Cooling in the summer, and heating in the winter.

For a building that won countless awards, why aren't we hearing about the "real" evidence, now that it's up and running? Same reason as MEC I assume. None of the real results are as good as the "projections".

Geo thermal works on certain scales. Very large buildings, in the coldest major center of the world isn't one of them. Sure, we can heat arenas with the heat extracted from the ice making plants, but that's a very different system. I'm still thinking, "this technology doesn't work" in buildings like this, and I won't believe it until they start telling us what is really going on... and with the rash of half truths and other cover-ups the NDP controlled utility have going on, I don't anticipate hearing any of that anytime soon. At this time, I think all this "green" hooey is a bit like the first bus Ballard rolled out that was supposed to run on a fuel cell. It wouldn't run the morning of the press conference, but since it was downhill, they simply pushed it and let it roll to the display area. After all, fuel cell powered vehicles are silent.

Fooled 'em again!

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