Burnside Rocket, Geothermal Open Loop System


Image 01 Source  – Burnside Rocket (Mixed Use Infill) _Street Elevation


1     2

Image 02 : Source – Burnside Rocket_Changing art panels for shading_Eco-Roof 


Burnside Rocket is a Mixed-use building featuring retail and office tenants on the first  four floors and a restaurant on the fifth floor. It is an example of integrating energy efficient systems and features to attain a sustainable and self-sufficient building.

It has a LEED Platinum certification along with winning the 2011 Urban Land Institute’s Award for Excellence.

Ground source heat pumps use the Earth’s constant temperature to thermally condition air before entering the building ultimately eliminating the need for air conditioning and resulting in super energy efficiency:

40% energy savings beyond code. The building was designed and constructed using LEED design standards. It is a model low key example for integrating sustainable practices : Starting from using Geothermal Water furnace water source pumps as the major system for heating and cooling, it integrates the following too:

01 – HVAC System – high efficiency open-loop geothermal machine. The production well is 300’ deep and generates 68 gallons per minute of water, some of it for the HVAC system, some of it for all of the building’s potable use, and some of it to be carted off and bottled offsite.

02- Edible Roof – roof uses 30% of its area as a green roof. Of this, most will be harvested daily by the top floor restaurant (Rocket) in the building.

03- Air Conveyance – will be run through the exposed voids in the concrete core floor pre-cast planks that make up the entirety of the floor and ceiling systems in the building. This mass will allow for the forced-air system to act more like a radiant system, with the air slowly cascading into the spaces 24/7.

04- Efficient Floor Plan – no common areas to suck up energy, heat, or waste.

05- Recycled Content – The building gets the vast majority of its materials within a 500 mile radius of the site.

The building will operate at 50% of typical energy usage.

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Diagram explaining the Open Loop system – 1) – aquifer at a depth of 280 ft. Delivering 68 gallons/minute. {Based on reading from report on Burnside from Source}


Image 03 _Hollow concrete floor slab for efficient distribution of air flow. Reducing high density ducting.

{Information Based on reading from report on Burnside from Source}

(Open Loop system depiction can be further understood as follows:4

Diagram depicting General overview of Geothermal System

{Diagrammatic Interpretation based on general information on Geothermal systems}

5  6

Flow Diagrams depicting difference between an open and closed loop system

{Diagrammatic Interpretation based on reading types and concepts of geothermal systems}


Flow Diagrams depicting the geothermal system as a heat generator in Winters and heat sink in summers.

{Information Adapted from Source}


Image 04 _ Source _Understanding heat transfer process in a WATER TO WATER heat pump.


Image 05 _ Source _Understanding heat transfer process in a WATER TO AIR heat pump. (applicable to burnside rocket)

9 10

 Image 06: Source  First Floor and Fourth Floor uses – Retail, Office and Restaurant.


 Image 07: Source   Typical floor plan for Second and Third floor office space.

Based on DOE Commercial Building Benchmarks October 2009, we came to the following Energy Usage calculations :


 Image 08: Energy usage calculations. Highlighted in Red are the EUI benchmarks

for different commercial uses.


 Image 09_ Source _ Highlighted in Red are the EUI benchmarks for

 different commercial uses in climate zone 4C & in yellow for climate zone 5B

 which is the climate zone for the studio design intervention in Pittsburgh.

A Comparison of performance with other air cooled air conditioners.

The following is a comparison of the EER’s and COP’s of Burnside Rocket geothermal system I typical air cooled air conditioners.

The purpose being to get an understanding of relative efficiency.


Image 10_ Source _ Highlighted in Red are the relative EER & COP comparison

for 3 ton heat pumps and in Yellow for 6 ton heat pumps.

The figures we are looking at are as follows:

Geo Heat Pump (3 ton) – EER – 15.3   COP – 4.7

Typical Air Conditioner (3 ton) – EER – 13.0  COP –  3.3

Geo Heat Pump (6 ton) – EER – 16.6   COP – 5.4

Typical Air Conditioner (6 ton) – EER – 11.2  COP –  2.9

The overall financial benefits are as follows:

The project qualified for $7,175 in Energy Trust incentives and a $61,066 grant from the Green Investment Fund, a competitive grant program that supports innovative green building projects in Portland.

A $60,000 Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit further offset the net system cost.

The value that the ground-source heat pump system adds to the building is exempt from assessment for property tax purposes under the Oregon alternative energy system property tax exemption (ORS 307.175).

Estimated property tax savings of $11,000 per year.

Because the well provides all the water for the building, the Rocket is not connected to the city water system and has no water utility costs.

15Image 11 : Source


1. AIR CONVEYANCE – The use of hollow concrete slabs provides better heat dispersion as compared to conventional heat transfer through air ducts travelling through building shafts. It is an additional measure for heat passage throughout the building which helps in reducing the quantity of ducts needed.

2. VENTILATION – Changing art Panels which doubles as window covering provides a ‘double glazed window’ type effect and helps in better air insulation.


Image 11: Source – Image of the sliding art panels acting as additional window cover.

3.GREEN ROOF – The restaurant uses produce from the green roof.ROOF GARDEN

Image 12: Source – Image of the sliding art panels acting as additional window cover.

4. TERRACE ON EACH LEVEL– Terraces on each floor provide passive heating and ventilation.


Image 13: Source – Terrace on the second floor.

Apart from integrating Energy efficiency, Burnside Rocket is an example for mixed use development that has increased local business on site acting as an anchor along the East Burnside Commercial Corridor. It has also increased the transit ridership to 20,310 annual trips. Thereby being eligible for METRO TOD Program Funding as one of the major stakeholders apart from the Architect and Developer.



a) Portland insurance litigation law firm Maloney Laursdorf Reiner PC – 3rd and 4th Floor

b) Local restaurant Noble Rot, which sources produce from its own rooftop garden

c) Pacific Rim Wineries

d) The partners at MLR are considering local tenants to occupy the remaining portions of the Ist floor of the building.  – Source

Attached Project Case Study     burnside-rocket-pdf

Burnside Rocket being a mixed use development and a model for energy efficiency measures forms a relevant case study for our design studio project in McKees Rocks, Pittsburgh.

The development program is a similar mixed use infrastructure development along with restoring the importance of the historic site as an important ecology with the Chartier’s Creek forming a very integral part of shaping the fabric around.


Image 14 : Source


  1. http://guerrilladev.co/completed-projects/burnside-rocket/
  2. http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/real-estate-daily/2015/04/as-new-owners-move-in-a-peek-inside-the-burnside.html#g2
  3. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/437377
  4. http://www.powerknot.com/how-efficient-is-your-air-conditioning-system.html
  5. http://www.terrafluxus.com/archives/date/2010/page/3

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