An 834-unit mixed-use development being built in New York City is set to be the state’s largest residential project with a geothermal heat pump system, thanks to a mix of compatible building specs, committed developers, and state support.
The US$700-million project consists of two apartment towers and three smaller buildings, plus a public park facing the Manhattan skyline at 1 Java Street. It will have all its heating, cooling, and hot water needs met by a geothermal heat pump upon completion in 2025, reports Canary Media.
Its layout—a five-building, medium-height cluster—made the project a good fit for a geothermal system, the developer says.
“It’s very site-specific,” noted Scott Walsh, development director at Lendlease, the Australia-based real estate firm building 1 Java. “If a site was smaller and the building was taller, those variables may or may not line up.”
The project’s location on an empty industrial lot also helps, writes Canary Media. Ripping into the earth for geoexchange, or the “give and take” of heat from the ground, would have been tricky had the land been covered by concrete and steel. Extensive drilling is needed to construct the intricate geothermal system—“320 vertical boreholes, each reaching precisely 499 feet deep and spaced 15 feet apart, connected to 32 horizontal circuits,” to be precise.
“Those feed into a central manifold room, where heat pumps and other equipment will take heat drawn from the earth and distribute it to apartments—or the other way around,” Canary explains.
Building such a system “added multiple months to the schedule,” Walsh said. “But that was something we were willing to take on” for the climate benefits.
(Biodiversity benefits may have been a different story when Landlease faced controversy over koala habitat in its home state of New South Wales.)
Lendlease says 1 Java’s geothermal heat pump will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions from heating and cooling by 53% compared to typical heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that run on fossil fuels. That means a lot in NYC, where more than one million buildings generate 70% of its annual emissions.
Regulatory changes are afoot to slash those emissions, however, including Local Law 154, which will “effectively ban fossil fuel systems for new low-rise buildings in 2024 and for taller structures in 2027,” Canary Media writes.
And in March, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority awarded the 1 Java Street developers a $4-million grant through a pilot program that supports projects using geothermal or waste energy to heat and cool buildings.
The Biden administration is engaged in its own nation-wide effort to increase the installation rate for geothermal heat pumps, which currently stands at some 50,000 geothermal pumps annually.
A 30% tax credit offered in the Inflation Reduction Act, paired with electrification rebates, “can decrease household geothermal project costs by up to 50%, saving as much as $15,000 for higher-cost installations,” says the Rocky Mountain Institute. Meanwhile, the Investment Tax Credit can help commercial buildings, like schools, the reduce up-front cost of a geothermal heat pump by 30 to 50%.