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July 2012

Bake sales for book shelves

The project was officially launched in 2007 with a bake sale and a dream. Now, after more than five years of fundraising, planning and mutual cooperation, the vision of several dedicated residents (a.k.a. Friends of the Library) is about to become reality. Construction of a new library building in the eastern Nebraska community of North Bend (pop. 1,200) is nearing completion; and locals are anxious to get a peek at the building project they’ve been following since early last summer. Soon it will be back to the books, searching cyberspace, attending a discussion … or perhaps planning a reception in the new facility’s community room.

Going green

The committee tapped Bob Soukup — a former local boy and North Bend Central High School graduate — an architect with the Omaha-based firm Carlson West Povondra, to design their new library building. His 7,150-square-foot single-story design with brick façade was well received. The spacious interior will include an adult reading area, computer lab, genealogy/research room, a children’s area and a multi-purpose/community room with seating capacity for more than 75 people. Although the original plan specified installing a conventional heating and cooling system, the plans were later amended after concerns about utility expenses were levied by city officials.

utility vehicle

Dvorak is adamant in his belief that good equipment is the key to productivity, and relies on his Bobcat® T300 compact track loader to complete a wide array of tasks and chores on most every job he tackles.

When Carlson West Povondra provided the committee with a cost analysis that projected a savings of $2,000 per year in operation and maintenance expenses, as well as $22,000 in additional savings for potential replacement of mechanical equipment within the first 10 years, the project committee deemed the geothermal system would be the most prudent approach. The cost savings estimate was based on the current operating hours of the library, the average climate conditions for the region; and assumed a mechanical system consisting of furnaces and condensing units. When comparing the upfront cost to the savings over time, a geothermal heat pump system would have a simple payback of approximately nine years.

“At the time we put the bid out, we had reached our initial fundraising goal and had discussed installing a geothermal system as an alternative,” Post says. “It was all contingent on costs and availability of additional dollars needed to pay for a geothermal system up front. The initial investment is quite a bit more than for a conventional HVAC system, but geothermal uses much less energy, and will pay for itself over time. Since we had enough funding to cover the costs, we made the decision to go with it.”

The Library Foundation will technically own the building until all the debt is retired — a timeframe projected to be within three years — at which point the deed will be transferred to the city. The town will then be responsible for all operating and maintenance expenses, including utilities.

After completing an open bid process, the building’s general contractor, Lacey Construction, headquartered in nearby Omaha, selected North Bend-based Dvorak Well Inc., to install the geothermal system. Specialists in well drilling and installing geothermal loop systems, the company was founded in 2003 by Steve Dvorak, a North Bend native who had been involved in the well drilling business for several years before starting his own company.

Construction equipment enhances productivity

The loop capacity required for the system designed to heat and cool the 7,100-plus-square-foot library building specified 16 6-inch diameter holes, extending approximately 300 feet deep, to accommodate the loops that circulate fluid to and from a heat pump. Dvorak used a bentonite-based drilling fluid with an occasional injection of polymer to help with maintaining the integrity of each bore. Once a borehole is drilled, the loop material is inserted and secured with a thermal grout — a mixture of sand and bentonite — that serves as a thermal insulator and also helps promote the flow of glycol-mix that circulates continuously throughout the system.

Despite the surface appearance of rich, fertile topsoil, lurking not far beneath are layers of sand, shale and rock; conditions that have presented challenges on nearly every drilling job Dvorak has completed in the area. He is adamant in his belief that good equipment is the key to productivity, and relies on his Bobcat® T300 compact track loader to complete a wide array of tasks and chores on most every job he tackles. Dvorak especially likes the variety of attachments — bucket, pallet fork and backhoe — that extend the versatility of the loader, while reducing labor and enhancing productivity.

“The T300 Bobcat compact track loader is really indispensable on a jobsite,” Dvorak says. “We use it for so many things. We use the backhoe attachment to dig pits and trenches for the circulating fluids essential while we’re drilling. And the T300 is much smaller and more compact than an excavator and allows us to get into much tighter places. It really has been a huge asset for me, especially for digging pits.”

Given that North Bend is located in the heart of the Platte River Valley, a region known for its plentiful underground water supply; the water table can often be quite high. The area is also a designated floodplain, so thousands of tons of soil were hauled in to raise the elevation of the Library building as a precaution. While the increased elevation will likely serve as a prudent proactive flood preventive measure, the transformed mound-like site — raised nearly 10 feet as a result — created steep, sloping walls that posed additional challenges for Dvorak during setup and periodically throughout the drilling phase.

“I continue to be amazed at how stable and safe the machine is, especially on steep slopes,” Dvorak says. “The track undercarriage is also a requirement because in the well-drilling business, especially in our area where we’re often in sandy, soggy and muddy conditions, we need a track loader that will plow through any conditions and not get stuck. We can have a 3,000-pound pallet of sand on the front end of the loader and it just picks it up and runs with it. I love it.”

On most days, Dvorak was able to complete two vertical bores, although an above average year of precipitation and subsequent rise in the water table delayed the digging of the 5-foot trench that houses the header; i.e., the location where all of the individual tubes connect. “We were delayed because of heavy rains and resulting rise in the water table,” Dvorak says. “Once things dried out a bit and the irrigation wells started pumping, the table dropped and we were able to complete that phase of the installation.”

Geothermal installations on the increase

Despite the additional up-front costs of installing a geothermal ground source heat pump system versus traditional HVAC, Dvorak has seen a steady increase in the number of geothermal systems he’s installed, both in commercial and residential applications. He cites an increase in consumer awareness relative to the many advantages of geothermal over the long haul, in addition to its renewable/sustainable properties as key factors.

“My dream is to go out and drill a well for a new house and install the loops for a geothermal system at the same time,” Dvorak says. “As more and more customers realize the many benefits of geothermal, and recognize that the systems actually will pay for themselves over the course of time, it’s really a no-brainer. I envision a steady growth curve in the number of geothermal systems I will install in not-so-distant future.”