D IGGING WELLS is an idea almost as old as water itself. But at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, eight geothermal wells have literally broken new ground.
The Gardner is aiming for a gold LEED certification with its environmentally friendly new wing, and it is among the first museums in the United States to use geothermal wells to supplement its heating and cooling needs.
The Gardner joins a small group of Boston-area institutions with geothermal wells, including Harvard University, Trinity Church, Boston University, and Hebrew SeniorLife, according to the US Green Building Council.
“The museum, on the facilities side, has always tried to manage its consumption of energy and resources wisely - certainly for the last 15 to 20 years, since we introduced climate control,’’ says James Labeck, the Gardner’s director of operations. “Museums tend to be energy hogs as they try to maintain climates for their collections, in the interest of preservation. But as we planned our new building we were interested in conservation.’’
Geothermal wells tend to run deep. The Gardner’s were dug down 1,500 feet. At that depth, the temperature is much warmer in winter and cooler in summer than at ground level. The water flows into a pump room, where it is filtered and patched to the HVAC system. The wells are expected to produce a 28 percent reduction in energy use.
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