AUBURN — The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education announces that Harriman and Southern Maine Community College received one of four AASHE 2013 Sustainability Leadership Awards. It was for an innovative HVAC system that uses seawater for all heating and cooling needs for a recently renovated academic building.

The Sustainability Leadership Awards recognize diverse institutions and the diverse initiatives that advance sustainability on college campuses across the country. The award for Best Case Study from an Associate’s College with 5,000 or fewer full-time students will be presented at the AASHE Annual Conference and Expo in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 5.

Located in South Portland, the Southern Maine Community College system taps into nearby Casco Bay, where temperatures range from 33 degrees F in winter to 60 degrees F in summer. Essentially, the system works in similar fashion to geothermal systems but without the drilling and with much colder temperatures. To fashion the first-of-its-kind system, Harriman engineers coupled marine industry technology with the only heat pump on the market that could handle the temperature ranges.

Located under the pier, the heat exchanger extracts heat from the ocean water in the wintner that is then used to heat the building. In the summer months it rejects the heat from the building into the ocean. The actual temperature differential is very minimal and does not impact ocean life.

The system has reduced heating costs by 33 percent and cooling costs by 27 percent. In the two years since the system began operating, the college has seen an annual savings of nearly $11,000 in energy costs. While the system cost $84,000 more than a conventional HVAC configuration, its reduced operating costs and no fuel oil costs will result in a payback period of less than eight years.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.