Iceland, Denmark, and… Akron!

August 16th, 2009

Joan:  After visiting European sites using sustainable energy, we were eager to see an example of something in the US, so we took a local excursion and had a guided tour of the new Summit County Metro Transit Center in Akron. The center opened this past January and uses both solar and geothermal energy. It’s a very impressive structure that is expected to receive LEED Gold certification.Dale.Akron1

The roof holds 435 photovoltaic solar cells, which generate nearly 40% of the building’s energy needs.Dale.Akron4

Twenty-five wells drilled to a depth of just over 300 feet bring up ground water, heated naturally to a temperature of 62 degrees, into a heat exchanger that heats air which is then pumped through the building. Thus during cold weather only a small amount of additional heating is needed; during hot weather, no additional cooling is needed. Sensors in the building optimize the system’s energy use. The initial construction was somewhat more expensive than an old-style bus station, but they will recoup the costs in about 10 years because operating costs are significantly lower.

Metro planners thought carefully about conserving resources and protecting the environment:

· They used recycled concrete for the building’s base.

· They recycled about 75% of their construction waste.

· The roof captures rainwater, which is then used for watering the landscaping and flushing toilets.Dale.Akron3 Dale.Akron2

· They installed waterless urinals, saving 40,000 gallons/year.

· In a few locations they installed test slabs of permeable concrete, which allows water to filter through into the ground. Permeable concrete prevents runoffs which overload drains and send untreated water into sensitive waterways (in Akron, the still-recovering Cuyahoga River); it also prevents depletion of aquifers. However, Metro planners need to be know how it behaves under winter conditions before using it on a large scale.

The Transit Center currently serves both the county bus system and Greyhound, and was located by the old rail line to allow for integrated mass transportation. We learned, however, that if Ohio gets its proposed Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati rail link, it will most likely run through Mansfield rather than Akron, because the track is in better shape on that route.

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