Why this NYC apartment complex will use a giant underground heat pump

Source: Canary Media


The 200-by-600-foot property skirting the shoreline in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood is, for the moment, an enormous mud pit. Excavators scoop up whole chunks of earth, making room for concrete piles sprouting rebar strands. All the while, four blue drilling rigs trawl the site on skid-tracked wheels, boring holes into the ground to harvest energy hiding below the surface.

Lendlease, a global construction and real estate firm, and its joint-venture partner Aware Super are transforming the former industrial site at 1 Java Street into a mixed-use development. But unlike most New York City buildings, these ones won’t directly use fossil fuels. Instead, all 834 rental units will meet their heating, cooling and hot-water needs by extracting heat from, or pumping heat into, the ground.

In April, the companies began work on the $700 million development, which will include two apartment towers and three smaller buildings — all interconnected — plus a public park that faces the Manhattan skyline. Once completed in 2025, it will be the largest residential project in New York state to use a geothermal heat-pump system.

The concept of tapping the earth’s heat has been around for centuries, and modern heat-pump technologies have existed for decades. Yet relatively few buildings in the United States have taken this approach to date, owing to high upfront costs, the complexities of digging into the ground, and the fact that geothermal technology remains obscure to many people. Around 50,000geothermal heat pumps a year are now installed in the United States, representing a tiny fraction of the country’s many millions of buildings.

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