With almost 50 percent of the original Everglades in south Florida developed into agricultural or urban areas, preservation and restoration of the “River of Grass” has been an active conservation project since the 1970s.
One company assisting in those efforts carries major name recognition: Disney.
The Walt Disney Co.’s Everglades conservation efforts include the purchase of 8,500 acres of a former cattle ranch situated at the head of the Greater Everglades watershed in Kissimmee, Fla. Slated for commercial redevelopment in the early 1990s, which would have destroyed its degraded but restorable wetlands, the ranch was instead purchased by Disney working with the state of Florida and conservation groups, to include the Nature Conservancy.
This preserve, which Disney subsequently turned over to the Nature Conservancy to operate, consists of 3,500 acres of restored wetlands and is home to 1,000 species of plants and animals. It is open year-round and free to the public for hiking and nature watching. Visitors to the Disney Wilderness Preserve start their visit at the preserve’s Conservation Learning Center building.
A Green Building
The Conservation Learning Center consists of a visitor center and indoor and outdoor research labs to carry out the preserve’s nature conservation and study programs. It was designed to be a sustainable building and incorporates a number of “green” features:
- Geothermal heating and cooling
- Freshwater catchment for irrigation use
- PV solar panels
- Low-VOC paint
- Outdoor furniture made from recycled materials
Two years ago, after 20 years of operational life, the center’s heat pumps began to break down and were in need of replacement. Symbiont Service Corp. of Englewood, Fla., specializes in water-source heat pump installations for pool heating and air conditioning and was hired by the preserve to replace and upgrade the learning center’s heat pumps. Symbiont has installed more than 1,100 geothermal systems all across Florida since 1974. In situations where there is poor groundwater quality, Symbiont installs closed loop plate heat exchangers; water is returned to the underground aquifer with no change in chemical composition.
A New Geothermal System with Bosch Water-to-Air Heat Pumps
The geothermal system’s open loop wells and piping for providing supply and discharge water to the heat pumps were deemed operationally sound by independent geo consultant Jay Egg. Symbiont selected Bosch Thermotechnology’s FHP ES Model WSHP as the replacement units, manufactured in Bosch’s Fort Lauderdale facility.
ES models are two-stage water-to-air heat pumps hat come standard with a two-speed scroll compressor and an ECM constant airflow fan motor for ultra efficient, quiet performance. The ES’s ECM fan motor is factory programmed to vary the airflow based on the stages of compressor operation. This modulation of airflow results in up to 60 percent in additional energy savings and also provides a greater level of comfort.
Symbiont’s tech crew installed a total of five ES units, 3 to 5 tons in range, in the learning center’s attic, providing a total of 20 tons capacity. According to Symbiont Sales Manager Mike King: “The installation of the ES units went very smoothly. We placed two vertical ES units in the attic space above a classroom and three horizontal units above the center’s office area.” Symbiont also replaced existing PVC water distribution piping with HDPE fused pipe to comply with local code and installed a Bosch-supplied stainless steel hose kit.
Daniel Cole, the preserve’s facilities coordinator, worked with Jay Egg, Symbiont and Bosch’s Florida regional sales manager Chris Galvin on the upgrade project and reports that “there were no major disruptions to the facility’s daily operations during the work period.” The project was completed in April 2015.