Heat from the Ground
"When we put our first test well down, it was like carving butter with a hot knife," says architect Mark Melchi, a vice president at MAV Development, the building's owner. But later wells ran into obstacles in the ancient rocky substrate, and, even after the drilling was done, there were further difficulties connecting the parking lot to the building: a horizontal bore got almost across Detroit St.--only to run into a literal brick wall underground. The street had to be dug up to complete the connection.
Jeff Harshe, also an MAVD vice president, describes the arduous project as a kind of experiment. So far it's only hooked up for a single office tenant, Second to None, and Melchi says they don't have comparative data about its efficiency, because the previous tenant in that space was a restaurant. But Harshe says that as they extend the system throughout the building, tenants should benefit from "lower utility costs and less dependence on nonrenewable sources." And so will the company: after this experience, he says, "we know how to do it" and can bring that expertise to future projects.
When the Market Place project was finally complete, MAVD owner Mike Vlasic hosted a party to show off the system--and to apologize to the tenants whose cars had been displaced for so long. He said the project "was my idea--and everybody hates me for it!" But he said it cheerfully and showed no sign of being discouraged.