City of Gulf Breeze Community Centre Introduces energy savings & green design


Keep the newly-renovated community center comfortable year-round while reducing energy usage and operating costs by using geothermal

Project Details

  • Location: Gulf Breeze, Florida
  • Community Size: 44,000 Square Ft
  • Unit Types: 15 Envision Series Units
  • Loop Types: 130 Vertical loops at 300 ft deep

Equipment Used

When Hurricane Ivan washed across the waterfront community of Gulf Breeze, Florida, in 2004, the storm did little damage to the town’s 29-year-old recreation center. Yet, this same storm provided the impetus for a $6.2 million renovation and expansion of the center, which included a host of high-efficiency building systems, among them a geothermal heating, ventilation and air- conditioning (HVAC) system

Gulf Breeze is located on Fairport Peninsula in Santa Rosa County, part of the Florida Panhandle. The small city of 6,400 people is a residential community across the bay from Pensacola, Florida, and is connected to Pensacola by a three-mile bridge. The city’s mission is to “…preserve and enhance the hometown character and natural environment to foster a high quality of family life.” Living out that mission, Gulf Breeze constructed a 20,000-square-foot recreation center in 1985. That first Gulf Breeze Recreation Center included a dual-court gymnasium and two large multi-purpose rooms that, according to Parks and Recreation Director Ron Pulley, were always full. So, when approximately $15 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds became available to the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, officials opted to apply a portion of the money to renovate and expand the well-worn community center.

"When we sat down with the became clear that the geothermal system would quickly pay for itself."
Prior to finalizing plans for the new center, the city held a series of public meetings for citizens to provide their input. The result is a 24,000-square-foot addition that more than doubles the size of the original structure, bringing to 44,000 the number of square feet in the Gulf Breeze Community Center. The structure boasts a new entry and lobby, two dual-court gymnasiums, four multi-purpose rooms, a game room, a full-service commercial kitchen, free wireless internet access and an exterior covered porch that overlooks 10 exterior tennis courts, tiered landscaped seating and a tennis pro shop.

As those who designed the building looked for ways to provide services to the community, they also considered ways to exercise environmental responsibility, both in the way the building was designed and the way it operated. The project incorporated a number of highly efficient building systems, including high-efficiency LED and fluorescent lighting, daylight harvesting, low-voltage lighting controls, spray foam insulation and a new geothermal heating and cooling system that provides 100 percent of the facility’s heating and cooling. As a result, the community center is a United States Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver certified building.

"We've been a customer of WaterFurnace since the 1990s. So, we didn't think twice about using their equipment for our community centre"
A geothermal system takes advantage of free solar energy stored just below the surface of the earth. Using a series of pipes (an earth loop) buried in the ground and a geothermal (sometimes referred to as a ground source) heat pump, the geothermal heating and cooling system extracts heat from the earth and carries it to a building in the winter. An indoor unit compresses the heat to a higher temperature and distributes it throughout the structure. In the summer, the process reverses and the system extracts heat from the building and rejects it to the earth. In both cases, the geothermal system delivers consistent temperatures and efficiencies that exceed those of conventional HVAC systems, offering savings as high as 70 percent for heating, cooling and hot water.

The Gulf Breeze Community Center opened in March 2013, and since then, the geothermal system has been working as anticipated—even better than anticipated if you speak to Pulley. “It gets very hot here, and I was concerned that the system wouldn’t be able to cool the facility as well as a traditional system. In fact, even in the middle of August, when it’s very, very hot outside and we have a number of activities going on inside and lots of bodies generating additional heat, we have people coming to us and asking us to turn down the air conditioning—that’s how well the geothermal system provides cooling.” Pulley adds that the system is easy to operate and, with the exception of changing filters, requires no maintenance. “In addition, the fact that the heat pumps are located inside the building and out of sight, means people playing tennis or sitting on the porch don’t have to see units lined up against the building or listen to them as they turn on and off throughout the day.”

"The heat pumps are located inside the building and out of sight...people playing tennis or sitting on the porch don't have to see units lined up against the building."
The new facility replaces one that Pulley says, “wore out, which is a good thing because it means we were providing something that the community wanted and used. Today we have a new community center that we expect to last a good 30 years—and that includes the geothermal system. Our goal is to fill the center every day, keep it busy and eventually wear it out. In the process, we’re focusing our attention on the young people living in our community and those yet to come, as well as older members, providing everyone with opportunities to learn, play, exercise and build relationships. WaterFurnace has to be proud to be affiliated with a project like this—one that promotes traditional values while incorporating new technologies designed to carry us well into the future, efficiently, comfortably and with sensitivity to the environment.”

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