Today: Apr 16, 2024

Franklin Field’s future: cool, green geothermal for ultimate comfort

3 months ago

TLDR:

  • Boston’s Franklin Field Apartments will be equipped with a geothermal heating and cooling system in a collaboration between the city, state, federal officials, and National Grid.
  • The geothermal system will use the Earth’s ground temperature to regulate heating and cooling in the public housing development’s 129 units.
  • This project aligns with the Boston Housing Authority’s goal of becoming fossil fuel-free by 2030.
  • National Grid will install a pumphouse to operate the geothermal network in designated Franklin Field buildings, and the BHA will handle work within the buildings to convert them to the geothermal system.

Boston’s Franklin Field Apartments will become the site of the city’s first networked geothermal heating and cooling operation as part of a pilot program. The collaboration between the city, state, federal officials, and National Grid will harness the Earth’s ground temperature to regulate heating and cooling in 129 units of the public housing development. The project aligns with the Boston Housing Authority’s goal of becoming fossil fuel-free by 2030. Existing conditions in some of the units include drafty windows and poor ventilation, making the geothermal system a welcome improvement for residents. Geothermal energy works by using several large borings dug into the ground to provide heating and cooling to buildings. In Franklin Field, water will move through a buried piping network to circulate heat between the ground and the buildings, while ground source heat pumps will deliver warm or cool air throughout the spaces.

This networked geothermal system is a rare sight in Massachusetts, with Franklin Field being the second installation of its kind in the state. As the logistics and installation will be challenging, the benefits of the geothermal system are expected to pay dividends into the future. The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) had initially planned to update the heating system at Franklin Field Apartments with a new high-efficiency gas boiler. However, following Mayor Michelle Wu’s fossil fuel-free challenge, the BHA decided to shift gears and explore alternative options. The geothermal system provides a clean energy technology, making Franklin Field one of the first sites in the country embracing this new approach.

The project will start with design in early 2024, followed by construction activity in 2025. National Grid will replace the aging gas boiler loop currently serving the designated buildings, and the BHA will be responsible for retrofitting the buildings and converting them from natural gas to the geothermal system. The geothermal project at Franklin Field is not limited to public housing and is expected to create a roadmap for implementing similar systems in various types of buildings across the city and the country. The collaboration between climate activists and National Grid demonstrates a paradigm shift in creating green infrastructure with utility companies. Through this pilot program, Franklin Field will lead the way in showcasing the potential of geothermal heating and cooling in large campuses and beyond.