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Project Profile

BCIT AFRESH Home Geo-Exchange Retrofit

Industry: Education

Project Name: BCIT AFRESH Home Geo-Exchange Retrofit
Location: Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Main Goal of Project: Provide superior high-profile control, data acquisition and user interface for training students of the BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) on the design and implementation of automated control systems for geo-exchange (aka geothermal, ground-source heat pump) applications.

Main Requirements of Project

The main requirements included:
  • Develop a training facility for BCIT students to use
  • Data acquisition from numerous points
  • Free integration of DDC system onto multiple computers for lab-based student and facilities personnel training
  • Budget friendly solution
  • Short time frame of soft package (program and shop drawings) delivery for BCIT approvals
  • Detailed submittals of proposed system
  • Assistance from supplier with helping BCIT staff to install and operate the system
  • Remote control of mechanical system offsite (special access required to mechanical room)


In 2007, the BCIT decided to retrofit a test facility mechanical system to geo-exchange from boiler/packaged air conditioner system. The building is called the AFRESH Home and it is located on their Burnaby Campus. In addition to providing a demonstration system for use by students, the BCIT also trained several students by involving them in the construction of the system. The piping is nearing completion and BCIT personnel will be implementing the DDC package next.

In parallel to the geo-exchange retrofit project (and in the same building), a demonstration fuel cell project was implemented by the BCIT and BC Hydro – the local electrical utility. The geo-exchange system is configured in a way to enable “waste” thermal energy from the fuel cell to be injected into the heating system thermal storage tank or into the ground for seasonal thermal energy storage while the insulated indoor tank is up to temperature and the fuel cell is running.

Altum Engineering, Ltd. (Altum) designed the system for BCIT and it includes several unique features.

The following modes of operation were made possible in a simple, reliable and cost-effective manner using the Innotech Maxim II controller:

  • Heating from the ground using a heat pump compressor
  • Passive “free” heating and cooling
  • Heating directly from the fuel cell reject energy
  • Storing fuel cell energy in the ground
  • Storing chilled water in a tank
  • Cooling while heating domestic hot water
  • Cooling while rejecting energy to the ground.
Controls Used: A wide range of applications are addressed using these controls:
Software Used:
Heating: See modes of operation above.
Cooling: See modes of operation above.
Data Logging: Several temperatures, currents and other data will be stored in the system for demonstration purposes and for labs/experiments.
Humidity Control: not required in this climate, exhaust air suffices for removal of moisture in most residential/small commercial applications.
Air Flow Control: AHU gets called on by Innotech controller
Water Flow Control: Innotech controller operates pumps, compressor and control valves to achieve the modes of operation listed above.
Ventilation: The AHUs (one upstairs, one downstairs to enable duplex flexibility) are fed supply air through heat recovery ventilators (aka energy recovery ventilators), which provide fresh air to the system and are interlocked with the AHUs.
Key benefits of the system include:
  • Allows simple user interface for non-technical personnel.
  • Centralized control of all equipment ensures individual items of equipment are only run when needed, reducing energy waste.
  • Centralized monitoring allows problems to be fixed before building tenants become aware of them.


What unusual issues has this Project posed?
None to date. Innotech assisted Altum directly with the controls engineering and spent a significant amount of time assisting with the conceptual design of the controls free of charge prior to the development of a budget for the BCIT. Innotech relieved the design engineer of the load of learning to program the controllers and provided a high level of assurance that the programming is done in the most logical way possible.
Which controls/software were used to address each requirement?
The Maxim III controllers were used in combination with IComm, Maxcon and Maxmon.