by , 02/12/06

I’ve been hearing rumors about a geothermally heated townhouse in lower Manhattan for awhile now, and have been meaning to go check it out for almost a year. Now it appears the moment has finally arrived – the geothermal house has just gone on sale. Asking price? A whopping 7.8 million. But just think of all the money you’d save in utilities!

From the Wall Street Journal:
“The five-story town house stands in TriBeCa, a few blocks north of the World Trade Center site, and uses an unusual geothermal energy system to provide heating, cooling and hot water. Pipes extend about 1,400 feet into the earth, where the temperature is always about 52 degrees. The pipes transfer energy to the house, where two-layer-thick concrete exterior walls, filled with thermal materials, trap the energy and distribute it. (All floors also have radiant heating systems.) The late New York architect and developer John Petrarca designed the property and lived there with his wife, business-journalism professor Sarah Bartlett, until his death from lung cancer in 2003. The project was completed in 2002.”

You wouldn’t necessarily think that the geologically inactive New York City would be a great place for geothermal energy schemes. Afterall, this isn’t Iceland or Northern California. However, apparently, if you dig deep enough into the surface of the earth, you can tap geothermal energy anywhere. At 1100 feet underground, the geothermal pump for 156 Reade Street is nearly as deep as the Empire State building is tall.

You can read more about the 156 Reade Street building in The Green House, available from Princeton Architectural Press.

Here’s an interesting old article from The New York Times about geothermal energy in New York City:

Related Posts


or your inhabitat account below


  1. 192stm August 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Does anyone know which company installed the geothermal system at the townhouse in Tribeca?

  2. tamale February 12, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    There’s a lot of bad information here. I hope the blog authors read this comment and use the information I provide (and look up more hopefully too) to help them make more informed posts. Let me start by saying that I’ve had first-hand experience in the geothermal industry in the midwestern U.S. for the past decade, as my Dad is a certified geotechnical engineer and a territory manager for the geothermal-specializing heating and cooling company WaterFurnace.

    First of all, there are two distinctly different types of geothermal energy – those which rely on active areas of the Earth like you typically find in thermoactive areas like Iceland and Norway, where it’s typical to get extreme temperatures. These systems are designed to use the extreme heat to actually generate electricity through the use of steam turbines and such. They are extremely efficient for home heating because there’s actually an excess of energy available – often enough to generate electricity for the entire home or several buildings and heat them all too.

    The second type is much less extreme, but none-the-less important. Under the frost line, which is typically between 2 and 5 FEET under the surface of the ground, the ground is almost uniform in its temperature across the majority of the surface of the earth, around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also why almost all caves are 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit inside. You can’t get enough heat from this constant temperature to make steam and generate electricity, but you can still use a heat-pump (like a refrigerator) with coils buried under the frost line to tap into this constant heat. The idea is simple – with enough coils exchanging near-freezing water from inside the house out into the coils, the ground will bring that water up a few degrees without end. Then the heat pump will extract as much heat as it can from the water and concentrate it to another heat exchanger in a blower unit to get hot air to heat your home just like a straight electric forced-air furnace.

    This is the type often utilized in the United States and anywhere else in the world for that matter, and several companies specialize in these kinds of systems, like waterfurnace. ( You do NOT have to go significantly deep down to tap into this source of energy, because you don’t need extreme temperatures. There are several kinds of loop installations, including ones where the coils are laid in trenches (horizontal), where they’re draped in tall holes (vertical), and even ones where they just lay the loops into bodies of water (closed water loops) or exchange water directly from the ground or bodies of water (open loops).

    The efficiency of such a system allows installations to achieve anywhere from 30 to 70% savings in utility costs.. and this is verified by all national organizations (including the EPA). Yes, there are significant costs associated with installing such a system, but in all cases the units can pay for themselves in less than 10 years. (and in most it can take as little as 5).

    Please, read this for more information about geothermal heat pumps. It’s amazing how much energy there is in the earth if we just would all tap into it.

  3. p.favano January 18, 2009 at 3:09 pm


    It costs more to install operate and maintain any Geothermal system than a system run purely on electricity.

    The Coefficient of efficiency of the national grid is about 30 % – meanintg that for every 6000 pounds of coal burned that 2000 pounds worth of electricity reaches your electric panel – the other TWO TONS are LOST IN TRANSMISSION so a geothermal system having a Coefficient of Efficiency of 3 or 3.2 ( thats what they claim anyway) can never perform any better or cost any less to operate than a regular electric system!

    air seal your home and change over to CF and LED lights for an instant return on your investment

    Anyone knowing of a geothermal system that actually saves energy costs then contact me directly I would be more than willing to check out the system, take real time readings and document its operation to determine the truth.

  4. Inhabitat » VEHIC... April 18, 2007 at 12:32 am

    […] you can power your house. Whether by using solar panels, wind turbines, hydrogen, gas, and even geothermal energy, we can say that alternative sources of energy are slowly creeping into our daily usage. Well, now […]

  5. Martha Cameron October 2, 2006 at 3:17 am

    Do you know of any Brooklyn brownstones that have installed geothermal heating?

  • Read Inhabitat

  • Search Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Browse by Keyword

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home