New-tech heat plan for centre

Last updated 11:21 16/12/2013
Andre Lovatt
John Kirk-Anderson
DRILLING TRIAL: Andre Lovatt, chief executive of The Arts Centre of Christchurch, with a drill rig that is boring wells for the centre's heating system.

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Cool new technology will heat some of Christchurch's oldest buildings if tests under way now prove the concept is feasible.

The first of four water wells has been drilled at the Arts Centre as part of a scheme to heat the entire 23-building heritage complex with renewable energy drawn from artesian water. If the plan proceeds, the buildings will be "heated properly for the first time in their 130-year lifetime," chief executive Andre Lovatt said.

The technology is widely proven in North America and Europe and is broadly similar to domestic New Zealand heat pumps. These draw energy from the air and are generally effective down to about zero degrees Celsius. The proposed Arts Centre system will draw energy from artesian water, which is a constant 14C.

Energy will be drawn from the artesian water using heat transfer technology and circulated to the buildings and rooms using a separate pipe system. Radiators will heat rooms.

All of the artesian water will be returned underground.

The centre was traditionally heated with coal-fired boilers. Until the quakes, it was heated with various electric systems.

"People who spent time here said it was quite cold," Lovatt said.

Going back to coal was unthinkable and contemporary electric options were expensive and unsustainable.

The renewable system will cost about $500,000 and pay for itself in about 10 years, Lovatt said. Most of the heating equipment will be concealed in basement areas, to improve the visual appeal, he said.

The Arts Centre is testing to see if the first well can deliver the necessary artesian water without impacting other users.

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