A journey from the centre of the earth: a National Geothermal Research and Educational Centre, Village Main, Johannesburg
Du Plessis, Marius
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This thesis aims to answer the following question: “How can development be seen as true progress if something is damaged in the process?” But in order to do so, the following questions must also be answered: • What is development? • What is environment? Development can be described as our attempt to improve our surroundings within our habitation and the environment in which we live. If we want to improve the place where we live, then development and environment should not be separated. Development should occur in such a way that the needs of contemporary society are met without denying the same for future generations. By definition conservation implies preserving something for the future. Geothermal energy can contribute by protecting our environment from drastic changes in order to save the depleting resources for our future generations. Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the earth. The word geothermal originates from the Greek words geo, which means earth, and therme, meaning heat (energy4me, 2014: online). The earth’s heat can be attributed to friction caused by colliding plates or fluid magma to some degree, but the vast majority of heat is caused by radioactive decay (Ochse, 2013). Strictly speaking, geothermal energy is not renewable as we cannot make new energy sources to replace it, but it is however essentially inexhaustible and the correct term should actually be a persistent energy source (du Plessis, 2014). It can be considered renewable though, because it does not prey on fossil fuel reserves such as coal, oil and gas do. Unlike the burning of fossil fuels, the process emits no greenhouse gases or pollution. The recovery of high-enthalpy reservoirs can be achieved while hot fluid or heat is extracted from the same site. Generally the environmental impacts of geothermal power generation are minor, controllable and renewable. The closed loop circulation of fluids is not environmentally harmful. It is sustainable, because geothermal energy is made by the nuclear reactions taking place deep inside the earth. This causes heat energy in the core of the earth and the heat moves around inside the earth through convection. Sustainability is a journey and a process that cannot be achieved within a short period of time. It is a way of life, a way of being and a way of constantly becoming – a path of continual improvement. This thesis seizes the opportunity to explore the potential of the geothermal energy to be extracted from an abandoned Witwatersrand mine and to discover a path that leads to the fulfilment of a unique situation – to be respectful of the building site, harmonious with the natural environment, and responsive and sensitive to the program in such a way that the design turns out to be a powerful agent for change.