46 Blackstone Street
Harvard's first LEED Platinum Building
The home of University Operations Services is 46 Blackstone Street in Cambridge. Since achieving LEED® Platinum status in 2006, this building has symbolized Harvard's commitment to sustainability and at the same time reflected UOS's strong leadership role in improving the environment.
This historic building is equipped with many modern technologies that dramatically increase efficiency. The large windows and glass ceilings allow natural light to cascade deep into the center of the building reducing energy costs, fluorescent lighting is mostly automated, a deep geo-thermal well provides cooling, and the landscape requires no irrigation and little maintenance. If you would like to learn more about 46 Blackstone St. or schedule a tour, click here »
Blackstone's New Solar System
University Operations Services (UOS) recently activated its new solar thermal system, designed to heat up to 500 gallons of domestic hot water a day for the Blackstone office complex. Unlike the more familiar photovoltaic solar panels which generate electricity, the six solar thermal panels atop Blackstone North generate heat.
Here’s how it works. Inside each of the roof-mounted collector panels are tubes through which an anti-freeze fluid is pumped in a continuously circulating loop from equipment in the basement mechanical space. The energy from the sun-heated fluid is then transferred through a heat exchanger to the domestic hot water tanks, located in the basements of both the North and South buildings. When hot water demand is especially high, or sunlight is low, the existing electric hot water heaters will still be used as a supplement.
The idea for the project was hatched last spring when a committee, which included Facilities Maintenance Operations (FMO), Engineering & Utilities (E&U), Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), and the Office for Sustainability (OFS), was formed to develop a new alternative energy project that could be showcased at Blackstone. The solar thermal project was selected for its learning opportunities and practical feasibility. FMO managed the installation and start-up of the equipment and will be assembling a “lessons learned” presentation to share with other Harvard departments who may be considering similar projects. The entire project was financed by the Green Campus Loan Fund and based on current electricity rates, will pay for itself through electricity savings in 13 years. Of course, if electricity rates continue to rise the payback from the savings becomes shorter.
Solar thermal panels similar to the ones installed on Blackstone North are available on a residential scale for private homes. Homeowners installing thermal solar panels can also take advantage of federal tax credits: 30% of the cost of the system, up to $2,000. See Energystar.gov for more information.
Fun Fact - The term "ldquo;anti-freeze" can be misleading, since while protecting against low temperatures it also guards against high temperatures (the bigger concern in solar panels.) Temperatures in the collection tubes will exceed 220°F on hot summer days!