Ball State University, Campus Wide Geothermal Conversion

Geothermal conversion and new district energy stations: Ball State University, Campus Wide Geothermal Conversion; MEP Associates, LLC

By Source: MEP Associates, LLC August 9, 2012

Project name: Ball State University, Campus Wide Geothermal Conversion

Location: Muncie, Ind.

Firm name: MEP Associates, LLC

Project type, building type: Geothermal conversion and new district energy stations, school (college, university)

Project duration: 5 years

Project completion date: 2014

Project budget for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection engineering only: $6.5 million

Engineering challenges

Accurately identifying the campus thermal profile and evaluating the current building systems in order to determine correct sizing of the well fields and the new distribution system; phasing and transformation of an existing campus system to a new geothermal system while maintaining operations and use of the campus; and creating a highly efficient system in order to reduce the overall energy costs while remaining committed to providing a sustainable, healthy campus and community.


The team at MEP started working with Ball State University in the spring of 2009 to design the largest ground-source, closed-loop district geothermal heating and cooling system in the nation. The systems feature 3,600 vertical bore holes, at 400-500 ft each; 10 miles of buried distribution piping; 1,000 miles of loop field pipe; two district energy stations; four 2,500-ton heat pump chillers; and over 40 building conversions totaling approximately 5,600,000 sq ft. The project will be installed in two major phases. The first phase began with the conversion to geothermal on half the campus and construction of the new 12,000-sq-ft District Energy Station North to house two compound centrifugal compressor heat pump chillers. This included the installation of distribution piping to buildings on the north half of campus, two well fields, and the conversion of 19 campus buildings to geothermal heating and cooling. Approximately 10 miles of hot and chilled water supply and return distribution piping was buried or installed in existing utility tunnels. Once completed, the new system will save the university $2 million in annual energy cost. By not burning 36,000 tons of coal each year, the university will eliminate 85,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, 240 tons of nitrogen oxide, 200 tons of particulate matter, 80 tons of carbon monoxide, 1,400 tons of sulfur dioxide and 3,400 tons of coal ash annually. Eliminating four coal burning boilers, this project will help Ball State University eliminate approximately one-half of its current campus carbon footprint.