LEESBURG, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--REHAU announces the installation of its RAUGEO™ ground loop heat exchange system as part of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s (Virginia Tech) “LUMENHAUS,” now on display at the grounds of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill. LUMENHAUS, originally developed as Virginia Tech’s entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon, will be open for public tours through October 23, 2011 as a special addition to the Farnsworth House tour schedule.
Noted as a leading innovator in the modern architecture movement, Ludwig Miles van der Rohe (1886-1969) produced visionary projects using glass and steel, and designed a number of buildings that became critically significant due to their small, efficient footprint and minimalist features. Van der Rohe began his architecture career in Germany in the early 1900s, and after World War I was instrumental in designing several glass skyscrapers in central Berlin. In subsequent years, the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright encouraged his work with such renowned projects as the Barcelona Pavilion, originally built as the German Pavilion for the Barcelona World Exposition in 1929, and remaining today as one of the most recognized icons of architectural modernism. Van der Rohe moved to the U.S. in the late 1930s, after which he began designing and teaching in ways that would come to transform the architectonic expression of the steel frame in American architecture.
The Farnsworth House, which van der Rohe began designing in 1946 and was completed in 1951 as a country retreat for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, has received acclaim in its almost seamless joining of the indoors with the surrounding exterior landscape. Since its construction, the Farnsworth House has been meticulously maintained, and restored on two occasions to return it to its original integrity (in 1972) and compensate for flooding damage (in 1996).
Inspired by the unique open floor plan and north and south glass walls of the Farnsworth House, Virginia Tech’s LUMENHAUS was additionally designed to achieve net zero-energy consumption while incorporating the latest in responsive architecture technologies. This included plans to accommodate a working geothermal system that would be integrated as part of the home’s low-temperature radiant heating system, also supplied by REHAU.
“While the LUMENHAUS was originally designed with a mechanical system that included heat pumps, the geothermal system had only been simulated in previous displays of the home,” said Mike Dietrich, business team manager, building technology at REHAU. “To more completely mirror the Farnsworth House design that inspired them, the LUMENHAUS team decided to install a working geothermal system that would be operational throughout its display on the Farnsworth grounds.”
As part of the original LUMENHAUS construction, REHAU designed the pipe layout and supplied its RAUPEX® crosslinked polyethylene (PEXa) pipe and compression sleeve fittings for the home’s slab on grade, in-floor radiant heating system. The company was approached again this spring to assist in the supply of a RAUGEOTM Collect horizontal ground loop heat exchange system that would be integrated with the existing radiant heating system and geothermal heat pumps.
“We were excited to work with the LUMENHAUS team in providing a functional and integrated system that could demonstrate the efficiency advantages of a radiant heating system, especially when coupled with a geothermal energy source,” Dietrich said. “It’s been rewarding to continue our work alongside this group, especially as we realize we’re helping educate those that can make a true impact within tomorrow’s building community,”
Working through Mechanical Equipment Sales, Inc. in Virginia Beach, Va., REHAU supplied two 500-foot coils of RAUGEO Collect 1-in. PEXa pipe, which was installed in a 6-foot deep, 250-foot long trench.
“Generally our company has used HDPE pipe in our geothermal installations, but we were enthusiastic to use the RAUGEO PEX-based system from REHAU on recommendation from Virginia Tech,” said Charles Elks Jr., P.E., president of Mechanical Equipment Sales. “I’m an alumnus of the engineering department at Virginia Tech myself, and have now worked on two of their Solar Decathlon projects, both of which have also incorporated other REHAU PEX products.”
Mechanical Equipment Sales then identified Elgin, Ill.-based J & R Herra, Inc. to install the system.
“We laid the first coil length at the 6-foot level, then backfilled 2 feet, then installed the second coil length at the 4-foot depth,” explained Brian Herra, president of J & R Herra. The pipe system was then connected via manifold to water-to-water and water-to-air heat pumps located inside the LUMENHAUS mechanical closet. This facilitates the transfer of heat to a domestic water storage tank that then feeds into the home’s radiant heating system.
“This was our first experience with a PEX-based geothermal system,” Herra said, “and we found that the mechanical coupling connections were made quickly and easily, especially when compared with the fusion welding that’s necessary in a typical poly pipe installation.”
Elks added, “I was already familiar with the REHAU radiant system, and this new experience with the RAUGEO system proved it was a strong, reliable geothermal piping option that was also easy to install.”
According to Elks, the system was installed within a tight project turn-around schedule, due to the April 1 annual opening date of the Farnsworth grounds.
“We were called on the job at the end of March, and within three days were able to dig the trench, lay the pipe, run water to and test the system, and have it fully operational for opening day on April 1,” Elks said.
For additional information on the Virginia Tech LUMENHAUS and its display on the grounds of the Farnsworth House, visit www.lumenhaus.com or www.farnsworthhouse.org/lumenhaus.htm. To learn more about the U.S. Solar Decathlon, log on to www.solardecathlon.gov. For details on Solar Decathlon Europe, visit www.sdeurope.org.
For additional information on integrated low-temperature heating and renewable energy sourcing systems, contact: REHAU, 1501 Edwards Ferry Rd., N.E., Leesburg, Va., 20176. Phone: 1.800.247.9445. Fax: 1.800.627.3428. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site: www.na.rehau.com/raugeo.
The Virginia Tech LUMENHAUS is a 100-percent solar powered, net zero-energy home that also incorporates the latest in responsive architecture technologies. It features a unique, open floor plan, with all-glass north and south walls inspired by Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House that maximize the occupants’ exposure to natural daylight. Representing a “whole building design” approach, the home has been constructed to promote harmony among all components and systems to consistently maximize both user comfort and energy efficiency. Other sustainable features include the use of passive energy systems, a low-temperature integrated geothermal and radiant heating system, and renewable and/or recyclable building materials. LUMENHAUS was one of 20 entries in the U.S. Solar Decathlon, which aims to elevate awareness of alternative energy use, whole building design and the Zero Energy Home concept––all of which promote increased occupant comfort, energy conservation and reduced environmental impact. It was also the winning entry in the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe competition in Madrid, Spain, held in June 2010 among 21 colleges and universities from across the globe. Solar Decathlon Europe is an educational project of the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, and is supported by Spain's Ministry of Housing and sponsors from the private-sector international building industry.
REHAU delivers “Unlimited Polymer Solutions,” and is the premium worldwide brand for polymer-based innovations and systems in construction, automotive and industry. The company generates continuous growth through its expertise and innovative capabilities in materials development, systems design and surface technology. Approximately 15,000 employees at more than 170 locations around the world ensure success of the independent, privately held company.
TO THE EDITOR: Please do not convert REHAU, RAUPEX or RAUGEO to lowercase. Thank you.