This piece was first published on March 7, 2024 on

The Microsoft Thermal Energy Center, a groundbreaking geothermal heating and cooling system that serves the buildings of the tech giant’s 72-acre East Campus Modernization outside Seattle, was truly two exotic jobs wrapped into one. Yet thanks to the synergy of collaboration, virtual design and construction, modular delivery and carbon reduction, the TEC team has set an example for smart sustainable project delivery that can be applied to many building types.

The heart of the TEC is the two-story central utility plant—on permanent exhibit as a symbol of Microsoft’s global sustainability commitment. Seventy-five percent of the plant’s mechanical and electrical equipment was prefabricated offsite in controlled environments.

The drastically different and most daunting part of the TEC is its 6.5-acre geothermal well field, consisting of some 900 bores drilled in the blind through unknown territory, mostly to 550 ft. Think of the well field as “a giant buried heat exchanger,” says Robby Oylear, project manager for the mechanical-electrical engineer, Affiliated Engineers Inc. Of AEI’s 15 completed geothermal systems, Microsoft’s is the largest.

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