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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

New Bus Station: Net-zero Electric with No Fossil Fuels

V-shaped roof of the transportation center, designed for rain water collection. Buses enter from this side and the back. (Polly Wheeler, BRD)

Barb Greg Whitchurch

Vermont’s mountainous, rural nature presents challenges to mass transit efforts. And private vehicle travel (especially in gas mobiles) is costing us all a lot with its air pollution and climate effects. However, more and more people are depending upon bus transportation, and we’re making great strides in meeting those needs.

Now, in addition to the inherent energy savings of bus travel as compared with personal vehicles, we are about to enjoy the energy efficiency of the bus station itself. The Upper Valley Community Transportation Center (UVCTC) is currently under construction and is located directly next to the existing Park and Ride at exit 16 on I-91 in Bradford, VT. It will provide bus storage, a bus wash, and office space.

Roof water is funneled into this storage tank for use in washing the buses. (Greg Whitchurch)

The building will be net-zero electric, with no fossil fuel use. For now, the buses are still ICE (internal combustion engine) but will be replaced with EVs (electric vehicles), charging from the solar PV array. Heat will be provided by pellet boilers that heat an insulated radiant slab floor in the garage, which will be kept at a relatively low temperature in winter. (Low-Portland, high-ash concrete was investigated but failed to meet load targets, so they were forced to settle for standard concrete, which, along with steel, shares top-billing as the most environmentally costly building materials.) However, the large bus access doors will exceed code-required insulation levels.

Daylight is provided in the garage by clerestory windows. The adjacent office will be heated by air-to-air heat pumps. The roof and ground-mounted solar panels (behind the building) will be installed by SunCommon. The solar array is sized to power the building and charge the buses in the near future, as Tri-Valley Transit (TVT TriValleyTransit.org/), the owner of this transportation center, anticipates the arrival of electric buses to their fleet within the next few years. EV chargers will also be provided for employees, while the adjacent Park & Ride already has its own EV chargers.

TVT is a non-profit which strives for energy efficiency throughout their operations. They provide bus service in Addison, Orange, and North Windsor Counties. The architectural firm is Black River Design (BRD) of Montpelier (BlackRiverDesign.com/). This is the second new facility that they have designed for TVT (the first was in 2011 in Middlebury, VT). The civil engineering work was done by Otter Creek Engineering of East Middlebury and Rutland, VT (http://ottercrk.com/). The Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA.org/) provided low-interest loans for this project, as they have for so many important advances in Vermont infrastructure improvements. (Groundbreaking and funding information is available at bit.do/bfd-bus.)

Insulated, heated floor in bus bays. (Greg Whitchurch)

Another innovative aspect of the center is its bus wash. To reduce water consumption and site stormwater runoff, rainwater will be collected from the roof. The roofline forms a V-shape so that rain and snowmelt are directed toward a central depression, which itself is V-shaped from its ends toward a central drain. A buried 5,000-gallon tank stores the water. A similar system was installed at the Middlebury facility to supply its bus wash. As a result, the facility’s water use will be similar to that of a single-family home!

Finish materials were selected for durability and low environmental impact. The floors (except bathrooms) are exposed concrete, and Insulated Metal Panels (IMPs) form the outside wall. The federal funding guarantees that the solar panels, pellet boilers and other elements will have been manufactured in the U.S.

We hope that this environmentally-conscious design and construction can influence the designs of other municipal and commercial buildings. And, just as importantly, we hope to have more electric vehicles parked inside them!

Over the years, the Whitchurches have added solar PV and hot water to their own home and are slowly working on geothermal. They are owners of LEAF and Niro EVs and a net-zero Passive House in Middlesex, VT. www.LinkedIn.com/in/GregWhitchurch/

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