Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Factory Heating

A couple weeks ago, Living on Earth covered the ongoing restoration and reuse of an enormous old factory building in Lawrence, MA. Sounds like Lawrence faced, on a larger scale, a similar situation to the one Hopedale is in now. The old mill in Lawrence is being, re-used as office space. I worked in a restored red-brick mill in Cambridge a few years back. It was a really nice space to be in. These buildings generally have large windows and lots of red brick. In the hands of a good architect, it's hard to go wrong aesthetically.

What's important in restoring these buildings is to try to preserve the sense of community that still exists in these towns. Turning the Draper building into office space just moves Hopedale closer to being another suburb of Boston, albeit with nice architecture. To be fair, architecture can give life to an otherwise boring place, but the town has much more going for them in terms of history and local culture.

The Lawrence mill is having a huge geothermal heating and cooling system installed. This is an extremely efficient way to climate control a space and efficiency is critical for a gigantic old building. The LOE coverage does not draw a clear line between this kind of geothermal installation and one that would actually generate electricity. he one in Lawrence still requires an electric pump to transfer the heat. The distinction is the same as between solar water heaters and photovoltaic solar panels. in both cases the former reduces overall energy costs, but does not produce usable power. They are also generally cheaper. When I was growing up in Texas, the electric company was advertising heat pumps, which I gathered were just smaller versions of what's going in at the Lawrence mill. I'm a bit surprised that such a system is still newsworthy.

Energy use should be significant portion of any plan to restore the Draper Building. Poorly implemented, it could be a huge energy hog. It's a large, old building. Done well, it could be an example of good design. I would argue for some sort of green certification. Maybe a green roof could be used to reduce heating/cooling costs. The dam that creates the Hopedale Pond is on one wall of the factory (it's an old mill), and could be used to power the pumps in a geothermal heating/cooling system.

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