Northborough – If approved by residents at Town Meeting in April and then again at the ballot box the following month, the new Senior Center will be built in such a way that the heating and cooling components will be achieved without the use of fossil fuels.
"It will all be accomplished using water pumped up from beneath the surface," Assistant Town Administrator John Coderre said. "A geothermal system will be used and it will not only be environmentally friendly, but it will save the town money as well."
Coderre said the town decided to go forward with the plan after receiving positive feedback from everyone officials discussed the idea with.
"I was kind of shocked, to be honest," Coderre said. "Everybody got on board at the mere suggestion of the idea. I think people understand the need to be building sustainable buildings."
The only real requirement of the project, Coderre said, will be the need to drill two deep wells on the proposed property. Conventional thinking is that the deeper a well is from the surface, the more water is available.
The water will be brought to the surface by an electric pump. Coderre said the water can be used for both heating and cooling because it remains at a consistent temperature throughout the year.
Coderre said the geothermal system will cost about $150,000, but the town believes it will pay for itself with the savings achieved by not having to use oil or natural gas to heat the structure. The savings will be offset somewhat by the cost to run the electric pump, but that expense should be absorbed by the fuel savings.
"The belief is that the system will pay for itself and the installation costs in 10 years," Coderre said, "and maybe even quicker, depending on energy costs. If the cost of oil and natural gas goes up dramatically, it will pay for itself that much faster."
Coderre said the town and project architect Joe Rizza, owner-operator of Court Street Architects, have also explored other alternative energy options, such as solar energy and wind energy.
"If there's a significant savings to be realized with solar energy or by harnessing the wind and turning it into power, we will definitely look into that," Coderre said, "but those are energy sources that can be added after the building is up and operational. The geothermal system has to be decided ahead of time for both the design of the building as well as the installation of the system."
Among the differences from using traditional heating and cooling energy sources, Coderre said, are the piping and heating and cooling elements that have to be ordered and installed, something that's easily done in new construction. Adding such measures to an existing building would be much too costly, Coderre explained.
It was determined that the proposed site of the new Senior Center on Colburn Street would be suitable for a geothermal heating and cooling system after a study was conducted last year. That study, which cost $7,500, Coderre said, was paid for by the Friends of the Northborough Senior Center.